Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

TOP STORY >>Positives stressed in report by PCSSD

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has 18 schools on the state’s list of schools needing improvement and has nine schools on the state list for failing to meet accreditation standards. But the news is not all bad. In its annual report, “Where Excellence in Education is an Art,” released Tuesday to parents and the community, the district focused on the positive side of the 2005-2006 school year.

“We our proud of the progress we are making in a number of areas, particularly with regard to student achievement, student behavior and our financial health,” Superintendent James R. Sharpe wrote in the report’s foreword. In the area of student testing, the report states that district students “continue to show improvement on a variety of assessment tools that are used to measure our students’ progress against those in other districts statewide and nationally.”

On the 2005-2006 Benchmark exams in grades third through eighth, district students showed improvements in all areas but one—sixth-grade literacy. Benchmark scores improved 8 percent in math, up to 56 percent proficient or advanced, and up 11 percent in literacy to 58 percent proficient or advanced.

The report says that PCSSD students “performed better than other school districts in the county in most categories.”
College scholarships were up about $500,000. In the 2004-2005 school year, graduating seniors were offered $7.8 million in scholarships, but it jumped to $8.3 million at the end of the 2005-2006 school year. At the other end of the spectrum, expulsions were down more than 40 percent. In the 2004-2005 school year, 64 students were expelled compared to just 38 students in the 2005-2006 school year.

“This improvement in disciplinary action is the result of faculty and students working together to improve the learning environment in our schools,” the report states. The report applauds extracurricular accomplishments in the district as well as the academics. “We believe that athletics and other activities are an important part of school culture. These activities help students maintain positive school connections, broaden skills and form positive intercultural relationships,” the report states.
The district praises the Sylvan Hills Middle School girls’ basketball team, which went undefeated in basketball and placed second in the conference in both volleyball and track.

Sylvan Hills High School won first place in its division at the World Cheerleading Association National Championships.
Jacksonville High School had a record eight students qualify for All-State Choir and one student earned a spot in the All-State Choir and the All-State Band. The report also looks at the district’s finances. According to the report, the district’s operating fund balance has increased by $2 million and is now at $10 million. The district’s federal grants balance has more than doubled from $971,804 to slightly more than $2 million.

Other highlights in the report include:
Newsweek magazine listing Mills University Studies High School as the 50th best public high school in the nation.
More than 53 percent of the district’s graduating seniors plan to attend college. The Jacksonville High School literary magazine received two superior awards from the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association. Two students from Harris Health and Science Specialty Elementary School were selected to participate in the NASA Student Symposium at Goddard Space Center.
In addition, Harris teacher Paula Armstrong was one of 31 educators selected nationally to receive a NASA Messenger fellowship.

The Northwood Middle School Cadet Band received a sweepstakes trophy and two superior ratings in the Region VI concert contest. The district has 37 schools, meaning it maintains almost three million square feet of education and support services buildings located on more than 750 acres throughout Pulaski County. The annual report is being distributed to students, their families, district staff, legislators, city and government leaders and other supporters of the school district.