Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

TOP STORY >>Monitors see grim prospects in PCSSD

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District enrollment has dropped consistently over the past 20 years from 21,871 in 1988-89 to 17,040 for the current school year, declining almost every year over that time according to a report issued earlier this month by the Office of Desegregation Monitoring.

Although PCSSD alone among the three Pulaski County districts tied by federal desegregation orders has more white students than black, the number of white students has declined steadily from 16,382 20 years ago to 9,152 today, while the number of black students enrolled has increased steadily from 5,489 to 7,888 for the current school year.

Some blame the decline in enrollment on decaying buildings, others on the perception that the districtís students arenít doing well academically.

As a result, the district has only about 64 percent of the students it has room for, according to the report, which was prepared by Andree L. Roaf, director of the Office of Desegregation Monitoring, and Polly Ramer, office manager.

It remains to be seen how or whether these numbers will play into the decision of District Judge Bill Wilson on whether or not PCSSD has achieved unitary status and can be released from court oversight. The Office of Desegregation Monitoring is an arm of that court.

Within the district, only Bayou Meto and Harris elementary schools have been excused from the requirement that black student enrollment at each elementary school must range between 20 percent and 51 percent, calculated for this year and that black enrollment for secondary schools must range between 20 percent and 59 percent.

The minimum 20 percent enrollment doesnít change. The maximum black enrollment changes from year to year, calculated on the racial balance of the district for that year.

Bayou Meto is excused because it is geographically isolated and Harris because the district is trying a neighborhood-school concept there.

District-wide, the percentage of students who are black has climbed an average of 1 percent per year from 1988-89, when it was 25 percent, through

year, when it is 44 percent, according to data in the report.

Black enrollment as a percentage of secondary school enrollment has climbed from 25 percent to 47 percent over the 20-year span. Among district elementary schools, black enrollment has ranged between 26 percent in 1988-89 to 41 percent this year. Hereís a breakdown of area elementary schools.

Adkins Elementary School: The percentage of black enrollment was too high from 1988-89 through 1992-93 and also from 1999-2000 through 2006-07, when the school was rearranged as an early childhood center.

Arnold Drive Elementary School: Black enrollment was too low fro the 1988-89 school year through 1992-93. Since then, the percentage of black students enrolled has ranged between 22 and 35.

Bayou Meto Elementary School: The schoolís black enrollment has ranged between 1 percent and 4 percent every year. This school is geographically isolated and exempt from desegregation enrollment minimums and maximums.

Warren Dupree Elementary School: Other than 1988-89, when 19 percent of the students were black, this schoolís black enrollment has been in compliance with desegregation goals.

Harris Elementary School: This science, health and space specialty school has had black enrollment above the maximum every year since 1991-92, ranging from 34 percent black to the current rate of 87 percent.

Jacksonville Elementary School: Black enrollment at this school has exceeded the maximum every year since 1995-96 and is currently 61 percent.

Oakbrooke Elementary School: This school, which has topped out this year with 35 percent black enrollment, has been in compliance with guidelines every year except 1991-92 and 1992-93.

Pinewood Elementary School: With 53 percent black enrollment this year, Pinewood fails for the first time in 20 years to keep its enrollment balanced within the guidelines.

Sherwood Elementary School: This school is one of the few that has been between the minimum and maximum percentage of black enrollment every year. Currently, it is 40 percent black, the highest percentage it has had.

Sylvan Hills Elementary School: This school failed to reach the minimum black enrollment for the first five years of the study, but has been in compliance since then, currently with 38 percent black enrollment.

Murrell Taylor Elementary School: This school currently exceeds the maximum with 59 percent black enrollment. It has been over the maximum four of the past five years and also in 1996-97.

Tolleson Elementary School: It had black enrollment of only 16 percent and 15 percent the first two years, but its racial balance has been within the limits since then. Now itís 35 percent black.

Jacksonville Middle School: The school has met racial guidelines every year of the 20 years studied, starting with 23 percent black enrollment and climbing to 56 percent this year. Currently it is the Girls Middle School.

Jacksonville Junior High School: This school, which became the Boys Middle School in the 2005-06 school year, has always met the racial goals, with black enrollment ranging from 22 percent in 1988-89 to 59 percent this year. Jacksonville High School: Black enrollment has ranged between a low of 22 percent the first year of the study to 50 percent this year.

North Pulaski High School: Black enrollment was below the 20 percent minimum for the first three years covered by the data but has been in compliance since then, with black enrollment currently accounting for 40 percent of the whole.

Northwood Middle School: This school had black enrollment below the 20 percent minimum in 1988-89, but has been in the target range since then.

Black students this year account for 37 percent of all students at this school. Sylvan Hills Middle School: Black enrollment has been between the minimum and maximum every year, beginning with 22 percent black enrollment and growing to 46 percent this year.

Sylvan Hills High School: Black enrollment was below the 20 percent minimum in 1988-89 and 1989-90, but has been in the acceptable range since then. Currently, 45 percent of the schoolís enrollment is black.