Leader Blues

Monday, August 20, 2007

TOP STORY >>City seen slighted by PCSSD

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Bishop James Bolden rattled the rafters Tuesday night, apparently realizing for the first time that Maumelle was getting a second new school while the area he represents in the Pulaski County Special School District, Jacksonville, hasn’t had a new school since 1983.

“I don’t like another school being put in Maumelle,” said Bolden. “We’re screwing Jacksonville totally. Why don’t you put up a new building?”

The district’s 10-year facilities master plan, which the board approved in January, includes a new Sylvan Hills Middle School and the Oak Grove High School in Maumelle. The board was asked to approve issuance of second lien bonds worth $4.5 million—$4 million for the schools and another $444,000 to purchase new school buses.

“Maumelle just got a brand new middle school,” said Bolden. “Why not (put the new school) in Jacksonville?

“The board has already voted to do this,” said Superintendent James Sharpe. “This is for Stephens Inc. …They need authority to issue the bonds.”

Pam Roberts, who represents Maumelle, chose that moment to tell other board members how envious those who attended a tri-district breakfast for partners in education were of the wonderful new Maumelle Middle School—“what a fine building we have.”

At that, Bolden flinched, rolled his eyes and grimaced.

“Maumelle already has a new school,” Bolden said. “Go to Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School—students are freezing in the halls.

“I’m tired of Jacksonville being treated like a stepchild,” he said.

Bolden announced twice at the meeting that he was running for reelection because he wants to continue to work toward a Jacksonville district.

The first new building planned for Jacksonville will replace Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force Base. It is planned for construction in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 at a cost of approximately $15 million. It appeared suddenly on the build list after LRAFB Commander Kip Self and members of the Arkansas congressional delegation got involved.

Later in the meeting, the Pulaski County Special School District stopped short of approving Bolden’s resolution supporting creation of a new Jacksonville district from part of the existing PCSSD.

The members did unanimously direct the district and its attorney, Sam Jones, to pursue unitary school status, at least in the area of student assignment. With some reservation, each board member expressed support for such a district.

But first, the state Department of Education must hire a consultant on achieving unitary status, and that hasn’t happened yet, according to Julie Thompson of the Education Department.

“Right now the attorney general’s office and Department of Education should be meeting with PCSSD and the North Little Rock District regarding pursuit of unitary status, according to state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, who authored the legislation aimed at ending the desegregation agreement and court oversight. The law took effect July 31.

Bond said they should also be meeting with all three districts regarding a phase out on the $60 million a year the state pays to support desegregation.

The districts must start by the end of October and must be unitary by June 14, 2008 to qualify for $250,000 to help cover legal expenses.

In other action, the board approved raises and other increases for support staff totaling $1.36 million. That includes a 3.25 percent increase to the base salary schedule, a 3.20 percent step increase and a 3.5 percent longevity increase.

At the July meeting, the board reinstated the Pulaski Association of Support Staff (PASS) as negotiating agent for the support staff and at the August meeting, the board rejected a request for $25,000 to pay Arkansas Educational Consulting to negotiate a new contract with PASS. Board member Mildred Tate objected, saying that in the past, the administration did the negotiation.

Superintendent James Sharpe responded that a new contract would have to be drafted from scratch, but in the end, the board directed Deborah Coley, assistant superintendent for human resources, to work out details of a new contract with PASS.

The board rejected two competing proposals for raises for eligible certified administrators—a $409,000 raise favored by Sharpe and a $307,000 proposal put forward by the personnel policies committee. Jacksonville Boys Middle School Principal Mike Nellums spoke for the second proposal, which would have curtailed raises for some who got raises last year in favor of raises for those who didn’t.

The issue is apparently on hold until an updated report next meeting comparing district compensation with compensation for like jobs at other districts.

The board approved $43,421 to add two multi-age intercessors in multi-age classrooms at Bates and Jacksonville elementaries.

“Due to the success of the multi-age classroom at Harris Elementary, we are expanding the program,” Coley wrote in her proposal.

The board approved mental-health services from Centers for Youth and Families, Professional Counseling Associates, Rivendell, Life Strategies, Inc., Therapeutic Family services, Pathfinder and Youth Home.