Tuesday, September 02, 2014

TOP STORY >> District election meeting planned

Leader staff writer

Education Corps, the group advocating for detaching from the Pulaski County Special School District to form an independent Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district, is hosting its second community meeting at Bayou Meto Elementary School on Thursday.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. The format will be question and answer, according to Education Corps spokesman Daniel Gray.

The focus will be the Tuesday, Sept. 16 election in which residents will have a chance to vote for or against the detachment.

The proposed district includes Homer Adkins Pre-K, Bayou Meto, Murrell Taylor, Pinewood, Tolleson, Arnold Drive and Warren Dupree elementary schools; Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School.

Only people who live within those boundaries will be able to vote.

The polls open from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

The Sept. 16 polling sites — the same ones used for general elections — are:

 Bayou Meto Baptist Church at 26200 Hwy. 107 for precinct 26,

 McArthur Assembly of God Church at 3501 John Harden Drive for precinct 27,

 Kellogg Valley Baptist Church at 9516 Bamboo Lane for precinct 28,

 Jacksonville Community Center at 5 Municipal Drive for precincts 29, 30 and 33;

 First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge at 14322 Hwy. 107 for precinct 32,

 St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church at 2403 McArthur Drive for precinct 34,

 The Venue at Chapel Hill at 1408 Madden Road for precinct 35,

 First Presbyterian Church at 1208 W. Main St. for precinct 36,

 First Baptist Church at 401 N. First St. for precinct 37,

 Jacksonville Senior Activity and Wellness Center at 100 Victory Circle for precincts 38 and 45;

 Indianhead Lake Baptist Church at 8601 Indianhead Drive for precinct 44,

 Berea Baptist Church at 104 E. Valentine Road for precincts 46 and 47;

 and Harris Elementary School at 4424 E. Valentine Road for precinct 48.

Early voting is Tuesday, Sept. 9 through Friday, Sept. 12 at the Pulaski County Regional Building, 501 W. Markham St. in Little Rock, the Jacksonville Community Center and the William F. Laman Library at 2801 Orange St. in North Little Rock.

Early voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Pulaski County Regional Building and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the other locations.

As for the meeting at Bayou Meto on Thursday, Gray wants people in the county to know “they’ll be included in the process. It’s just as important to them as it is to everyone else.”

He also said campaigners would continue to emphasize the benefits of a standalone district. Those are keeping tax revenues in the community, expanding the curriculum, improving facilities with more matching state funds based on the wealth index and having local control.

State Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), state Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock), state Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock), state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Pulaski County JP Bob Johnson and Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher were recently appointed to a committee that will recommend to the state Board of Education who should serve on the new district’s seven-member interim school board.

Sept. 30 is the deadline for applications from those interested in serving on the interim school board. The recommendations will be submitted at the state board’s Oct. 9 meeting.

If voters approve of the detachment as expected, the law allows for up to a two-year transition period. Until the actual separation, PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess will lead both districts. Gray has said previously that the 2014-15 school year would be transitional.

But the interim board will have the opportunity to appoint an interim superintendent.

That board will also guide the new district in negotiations with PCSSD over the division of assets, like school buses and computers, as well as personnel.

Advocates have said teacher salaries will at least stay the same to be competitive.

Several residents who attended past meetings suggested PCSSD employees at soon-to-be Jacksonville/North Pulaski district schools would have to reapply for their jobs with seniority making a difference as to whether they go where they want to go.

And the Education Corps still needs people to assist in the campaign for the Sept. 16 election.

Those who are interested in making phone calls, distributing signs, holding signs at the polling sites or helping in other ways should call volunteer coordinator Jada Ellis at 501-246-0621.