By Christina Fowler
LITTLE ROCK – The State Board of Education reviewed the quarterly Legislative Reports and approved the District Support plans for the five school districts currently under state authority on Thursday.
Mike Hernandez, State Superintendent for the Arkansas Department of Education, highlighted the efforts Dollarway, Earle, Lee County, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff School Districts have made to improve literacy and math proficiency in their districts, reduce chronic absenteeism among students and teachers, and improve collaboration through the development of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). To view the Legislative Update for each district, click on the District Name below:
- Dollarway School District
- Earle School District
- Lee County School District
- Little Rock School District
- Pine Bluff School District
Searcy County School District’s request for an Act 1240 waiver that will allow nine days of early afternoon dismissal in order to expand the implementation of PLCs in the district was approved.
According to Searcy County School District Superintendent Alan Yarbrough they have experienced significant improvement in teacher efficacy as a result of the PLC established and working on the Elementary School campus for the past two years, and feel the process needs to be carried forward on their other campuses.
“Even though our reading scores compare very well to the districts around us in the state, we believe we can do better. We believe the PLC process will serve as the vehicle we can use to bring that improvement to our staff and to our students,” Yarbrough said.
The board requested a hearing to review the Open-Enrollment Public Charter School Application for Hope Academy of Northwest Arkansas at its next meeting to discuss the request for a waiver of Section 4 under Arkansas Act 190 of 2019 concerning school counseling services.
Hope Academy of Northwest Arkansas is seeking a waiver from employing a counselor who is also a certified educator. Instead, they plan to employ a full-time counselor dedicated solely to the needs of the students at the charter and use counseling services with a proven, positive track record working with children in another program overseen by the sponsoring entity, the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.
On Thursday, the board also reinstated the teaching license of Rick Napier under the Emergency Rules Governing Educator Licensure Reinstatement of a Revoked License that became effective on August 23, 2019.
In 1999, Napier’s license had been revoked due to a disqualifying offense. He completed all probation and sentencing requirements and has committed no other offense to date. The board
granted a waiver of the disqualifying offense, and evidence was provided that Napier has met all the requirements in order to seek reinstatement of his license. To view the full rules, click here.
Following the board’s decision, ADE Commissioner Johnny Key noted, “This bill isn’t just for one person, it’s a good example of how government, because of one person and a team that gets behind it, can work for the people. Expect that there will be others. There will be other Arkansans that may have had some situation, maybe 20 years ago, that will get another chance now under certain conditions to get back into the classroom.”
The board also granted a waiver of a disqualifying offense granted to Bryan Little, revoked the license of Jessica Williams, and upheld the PLSB Evidentiary Hearing’s recommendation for Robert Tomas Edwards III. A motion of continuance for the PLSB Evidentiary Hearing Recommendation for Jerry Lynn Odom was granted, and the hearing will be added to the October agenda.
In other business on Thursday, the board:
- Accepted the Act 1240 Annual Progress Reports for Hope, Hot Springs, Jacksonville North Pulaski, Hillcrest, Hermitage and Lafayette County School Districts;
- Approved the Fourth Round of ABC Grants for 2019-2020; and
- Approved the DESE Rules Governing the Educator Compensation Reform Program and the DESE Rules Governing the School District Educational Excellence Trust Fund.
On Friday, the board granted approval for the release for public comment pending the Governor’s approval for all rules on the agenda, except for items 7 and 8 which were pulled prior to the meeting. The board also reviewed highlights from the ACT Aspire Alignment Study.