Leader Blues

Monday, March 02, 2009

TOP STORY >> Maumelle school could hurt Jacksonville

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville-area residents say they will ask the Pulaski County Special School District Board to reverse recent votes to proceed with an $80 million second-lien bond issue for a Maumelle school and also to recombine the Boys’ and Girls’ Jacksonville Middle Schools when they appear at a special board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Board members and Maumelle officials broke ground on the new Maumelle High School Friday. If the $80 million estimates are correct, the new school will be so expensive that the Sylvan Hills Middle School, which had been scheduled to be built at the same time, could be in limbo until after district patrons vote to raise taxes at some uncertain time in the future.

Larry O’Briant, the district’s chief financial officer, told the board in February that with declining enrollment—and thus state aide, the possible cessation of about $16 million a year in desegregation funding and Jacksonville breaking off to form its own school district, PCSSD may not be able to make the payments on the $80 million bond issue pushed through last meeting by board president Tim Clark.

The new Maumelle High School is in Clark’s district.

Members of the Jacksonville World Class Education Association say that if the district insists on issuing the $80 million in second-lien bonds, it should exempt Jacksonville residents from absorbing about 15 percent of it if they finally get their district.

They also say that the decision whether or not to combine the boys’ and girls’ schools should have been tabled until Jacksonville has its own district and its new board can make that decision.

Jacksonville’s PCSSD representative Bill Vasquez cast the deciding vote that requires the two schools to be recombined—an action that would increase the power of the district’s teacher’s union in running the school and could threaten Boys’ School Principal Mike Nellums, long at odds with the union.

Vasquez failed to return several calls earlier on this issue by members of the Jacksonville World Class Education Association and The Leader.