Friday, September 18, 2015

TOP STORY>> Scholars program is phased out

Leader senior staff writer

Some parents of children who live in the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Dist-rict are upset that their students will not be able to enter, continue or graduate from Pulaski County Special School District’s Scholars Program when JNP splits completely from PCSSD after this school year.

While PCSSD would welcome those students and the state minimum foundation aid that follows, Jacksonville-North Pulaski Superintendent Tony Wood sounds emphatic in his resolve that students living in the new district need to come home.

Legal transfers from one district to another are a matter for the new school board to consider, but the superintendent would make a recommendation.

Possible solution 

The districts could enter into a memorandum of understanding to allow students already in the program to graduate from PCSSD, for instance. If the current students remain in the program next years, but with about $6,300 of state money per student at stake, that could cost the new district about half a million dollars a year, based on current Scholars Program enrollment from Jacksonville-area schools. That’s money the fledgling district cannot afford to lose, according to Phyllis Stewart, JNP chief of staff. “That’s a significant impact.”


This school year, two Jacksonville-area students are in College Station Elementary’s Scholars’ Program, 40 are in the program at Fuller Middle School and 38 at Mills High School, according to PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess. That’s 80 in all.

Scholars program teachers must have nine to 18 hours of continuing education in gifted and talented classes, while teachers for regular Advanced Placement classes need only a certificate in the area they teach, accord to Stewart, and more training every five years.

Scholars graduates get a special stamp on their diploma and notice on their transcript.

Guess said Tuesday JNP is “going to have a gifted and talented program. But Scholars is a unique program. It’s a matter of serving kids. We’ll work with them any way we can.”

“This is exactly why we voted to have our own district,” said current school board President Daniel Gray, who was at the forefront of the successful effort to get a stand-alone Jacksonville-area district.


“We have not been satisfied with curriculum offerings for our students at Jacksonville,” he said. “PCSSD channeled all the best in the district to one school, far from our home schools. They have recruited our kids.

“We shouldn’t have to send kids outside our community,” Gray said. “We want kids of this caliber and we’ll increase offerings.”

“I think it’s an exploitation by PCSSD to unfairly take advantage of the transition to say we won’t offer advanced placement classes.”

“I understand where parents are coming from,” said Gray. “We all want what’s best for our kids.”

He said Guess wants to poach the top students from Jacksonville, but won’t allow legal transfers to allow Gravel Ridge students to continue their education in Jacksonville’s schools.” In other words, he’s open take in out of district students and the money that goes with them, but not to allow legal transfers from his district, according to Gray.

Stewart said parents who are concerned could make an appointment with JNP administrators to discuss the needs of those children and see how Jacksonville-North Pulaski district can accommodate them.”