Tuesday, November 18, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Enthusiasm for schools

The new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board was off to a good start at its first meeting Monday evening at city hall.

After a 35-year effort, the new Jacksonville district now has an outstanding board with impressive education credentials. The board elected Daniel Gray president, Ron McDaniel vice president and Carol Miles secretary. Patrick Wilson, who helped shepherd the new district into existence, was hired as the district’s attorney, a crucial post as the Pulaski County school districts are still trying to extricate themselves from the long-running desegregation lawsuit.

The first historic meeting was held without fanfare, but those who watched the swearing-in ceremony could tell that this board will lead the district in a new direction. This is a board that will offer students better schools and a better education and show the community that local control is the best and only way to run a school district.

We’ve seen how Beebe, Cabot and Lonoke school districts have grown over the decades. Local residents fund new schools almost every year because of grassroots efforts that make funding for new schools and programs possible.

Mayor Gary Fletcher encouraged that board to do its best for the 4,000 students in the district. Also in attendance was the redoubtable Bobby Lester, who led Jacksonville High School and the Pulaski County Special School District to new heights before it plunged into chaos soon after he retired.

Don’t be surprised if former superintendent Bobby Lester steps in to lead the district, at least while it takes its first baby steps. He has the practical know-how and a down-home touch that would help the district move forward with building plans, staffing and budgeting.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. at city hall on the first Monday of each month. The next meeting will be on Dec. 1.

If you live in the Jacksonville area, try to attend the board’s next meeting and give the members a standing ovation. And, if you happen to spot former state Rep. Pat Bond (D-Jacksonville) — she sponsored legislation more than a decade ago that made the new district possible — thank her for ushering in a new era for thousands of students who have been neglected too long.