Tuesday, June 02, 2015

TOP STORY >> District wants voters’ backing

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville-area voters will have a chance to endorse the current school property tax millage, to authorize the selling of about $15 million in construction bonds secured by part of that tax and to choose their first elected school board when they head to the polls for the Sept. 15 school elections.

The construction-bond authority would be embedded in the vote for the 40.7-mill tax, according to Scott Beardsley, senior vice president of First Security’s Beardsley Public Finance. He is the district’s public finance adviser.

“They just vote yes or no on the whole issue,” Beardsley said.

The interim, appointed board voted unanimously Monday night to proceed and also approved publication of a projected $59.9 million budget for 2016-17, the first year JNP will actually educate students.

If the 40.7-mill tax doesn’t pass, the tax will remain 40.7 mills, but without authorization to use the embedded 14.8-mill debt-service tax to issue the construction bonds, Beardsley said.

Otherwise, the board can authorize issuance of second-lien bonds secured by those same 14.8 debt-service mills, he said.

“It’s just cleaner and more transparent” if voters approve it, he explained.

The board also returned from a brief executive session to unanimously approve Superintendent-elect Tony Wood’s recommendation to hire Bobby E. Lester, son of the interim superintendent, as assistant superintendent for human resources and support services, and Jeremy Owoh as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Lester is currently director of federal programs for the state Education Department, and Owoh has been principal of J.A. Fair Systems Magnet High School since 2011.

Lester, who has worked as a principal at Pinewood Elementary and assistant principal at Jacksonville Middle School, holds an educational specialist degree from Harding University.

That is an advanced terminal degree designed for those who wish to develop advanced knowledge and theory beyond the master’s degree level. His salary is expected to be $113,000.

Owoh, who also holds an educational specialist degree, has worked as principal at Fuller Middle School and was dean of studies at Mills University Studies High School. His salary is expected to be $105,000. Both are certified for the posts.


By law, the 12 schools and buildings detaching from PCSSD to be part of JNP must be purchased at fair market values, according to JNP Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart.

Even though the buildings are all old and in various states of disrepair, that’s still expected to be about $10.8 million that the new district will owe PCSSD.

That money is expected to come from about $15.3 million in bonds secured by the 14.8-mill debt service portion of the 40.7-mill property tax. The balance could be used for repairs and minor remodeling.

It is widely expected that the new board will need to ask voters to approve a millage increase to build a new high school, a new elementary school to replace Arnold Drive and Tolleson on Little Rock Air Force Base and to convert North Pulaski High School into the district’s middle school.

The new elementary could be paid for by the Defense Department and built on the base. All elementary schools would be renovated and improved.


The projected $59.9 million 2016-17 budget includes $22.9 million in salaries and benefits; $15 million in building fund expenses; $8.2 million in instructional expenses; $4.1 million in maintenance and operations; $3.9 million in pupil transportation expenses; $1.1 million in bonded debt payments; $350,000 in dedicated maintenance and operation and $407,000 in other operating expenses.


Interim Superintendent Lester will serve until June 30. Superintendent-elect Wood and his new assistants will begin July 1.

Of the six current JNP board members who were asked Monday night, Ron McDaniel said he expected to run for the board in September.

Board president Daniel Gray, Robert Price, Richard Moss, Norris Cain and LaConda Watson each said they hadn’t decided. Board secretary Carol Miles was absent.

If they all wished to return to the board, some would be in races against each other. The school zones were drawn and approved after they were appointed to the board. That pressure would be partially alleviated because they chose to implement a model with five zones and two at-large board members.

The filing deadline for school board positions this year is Aug. 17.