Tuesday, January 05, 2016

TOP STORY >> Effort starts for February millage hike

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District faithful, about 150 strong, turned out Tuesday for the launch of the effort to pass a 7.6-mill tax increase on Feb. 9 to fund the new district’s building program.

Part informational and part pep rally at the community center, Bishop James Bolden engaged them in a church-like call and response before passing the basket for donations.

“Ain’t no stopping us now,” he challenged. “Ain’t no stopping us now,” was the response.

Eldon Bock, a principal in WER Architects, said he had been impressed with “the singularity of voice” through the meetings he had attended, “like a church.”

ARTIST’S RENDERING

An artist’s rendering of a possible front fa├žade of the proposed new high school’s signature entrance on Main Street was revealed. Bock warned that the final building would be different.

It will have a striking exposure to Hwy. 67/167, Bock said.

Bock said it was too early to know exactly how the school would be configured, that it wasn’t useful to make those decisions until everyone knew if the millage increase passed.

“The majority of our work starts when the millage passes,” said Bock. “We’ll design something unique and special for you community.”

“You’re going in a great direction,” he said.

A rough layout shows the classroom buildings near Main Street, along with the cafeteria and kitchen.

It also included an auditorium, gymnasium, field house and space for the culinary arts and automotive components.

“It’s designed so that contractors can expand in the future without interfering with school,” he said.

“Forward, February 9,” is the campaign slogan, printed on material and yard signs.

People signed up to pass out literature and make phone calls.

HUDGEONS REHIRED

Jacksonville Middle School Principal Mike Hudgeons became the first administrator or certified school-level employee hired by the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District at the January meeting Monday night.

Hudgeons was hired to that position last year by Pulaski County Special School District, which continues to make schooling decisions for the new district through the end of this school year.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess and interim JNP Superintendent Bobby Lester concurred on his hiring last year. The state Board of Education had wanted consistency of leadership at the school for at least two years, because the middle school is in academic distress.

The board unanimously approved JNP Superintendent Tony Wood’s recommendation to hire Hudgeons.

MASTER PLAN OK

Wood reported that court-appointed desegregation monitor Margie Powell had written to the judge to say that other than having no Plan B for improving facilities if the millage construction tax increase fails, JNP’s facilities master plan has “no negative effects…on Plan 2000.

That facilities plan calls for construction of a new Jacksonville high school, a new elementary school and multipurpose rooms for all elementary schools. The current North Pulaski High School will be converted into a middle school.

The hiring of seven more principals and, tentatively, 10 assistant principals should be done by February.

PRINCIPALS 

Wood said a number of central Arkansas people, including some current Jacksonville area principals, were among the 26 people who applied for principal positions, and than 35 for assistant principals.

Board members have been going through the language of the proposed board policies and handbook with a fine-tooth comb.

The board approved the section on board governance, including an ex-officio board seat for the commander of the 19th Support Group at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The board authorized Wood to look into outsourcing food services and transportation services, which require state Education Department approval.

The unanimous vote was not to outsource those, but to investigate and get ready to send requests for proposals if the board later approves the idea.

Wood said the board needed to decide whether or not to go with a vendor no later than April, “and that’s cutting it really, really close.”

He said outsourcing is not Plan A, it’s just an option to explore.

The board needs to be looking at hiring certified personnel in March.