Friday, March 11, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Districts free at last

The state Board of Education announced this week that it will release the Pulaski County Special School District from state supervision after five roller-coaster years. Patrons in PCSSD, including Sherwood, will elect their own school board later this year in hopes of rebuilding the district’s depleted resources following the departure of Jacksonville and much of north Pulaski County, where residents recently passed a millage increase that will pay for new schools and other improvements.

PCSSD will celebrate its release from state oversight with another try at a millage increase, which district voters have rejected for decades. Jacksonville residents approved the 7.6-mill increase only after they were allowed to split from the county district. Sherwood will now redouble its effort to leave PCSSD and one day put before the voters a similar package that Jacksonville passed last month.

Jacksonville now has the resources to purchase its old schools from PCSSD with the current 40.7 mills and plan for the future with the higher millage set to go into effect as soon as next year to pay for a new high school, elementary school and much more.

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board on Monday voted to sell $15.365 million in construction and facilities bonds with the previous millage. Two-thirds of the proceeds will be used to purchase area school buildings from PCSSD by July 1, the official JNPSD detachment date, and also make needed improvements.

The $10.8 million purchase will include the Jacksonville and North Pulaski high school buildings, the old Jacksonville Middle School building and elementary buildings, including Arnold Drive, Tolleson, Murrell Taylor, Pinewood, Warren Dupree, Bayou Meto and Homer Adkins, as well as the bus barn.

The money to secure those bonds comes from JNP’s share of the annual September renewal of the current 40.7-mill property tax. The bonds to build the new high school and elementary school, secured by the 7.6-mill tax increase approved by Jacksonville-area voters Feb. 9, will be sold in May 2017.

That bond sale is expected to help fund the $80 million building program to the tune of about $46 million.

It’s anticipated that the state will pay about 55 percent of the cost of approved construction and repair of academic spaces.

The new district is also putting together an impressive management team, starting with Superintendent Tony Wood, Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh, Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart and the hiring this week of Bryan Duffie as the district’s assistant superintendent for support services and Kevin Martin as director of technology.

This is a school district PCSSD and perhaps Sherwood can one day emulate.