Tuesday, April 05, 2016

TOP STORY >> Schools open Aug. 15 in new district

Leader senior staff writer

At least 30 years in the making, Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District doors will finally open to area students Aug. 15, according to the 2016-2017 school calendar unanimously adopted Monday night, but much remains to be done.

For instance, the new district will need 40 to 50 school bus drivers, and despite great concern by PCSSD drivers that they wouldn’t be hired by JNPSD or that transportation would be outsourced, so far the district has only 16 applications.

Superintendent Tony Wood said that if he and the other administrators aren’t confident by early June that they’ll hire enough drivers, other options such as increasing compensation or hiring a management firm or outsourcing could be considered.

Wood said current compensation is essentially the same as it is at neighboring districts, including the Pulaski County Special School District.

The board set two public meetings for April 21 at the Jacksonville Police Department public safety room at 1400 Marshall St., one for elementary attendance zones, the other for colors and mascots.

A meeting will convene at 6 p.m. that day to consider proposed changes to elementary school attendance zones. It’s a thorny question, Wood has said, and not everyone is going to be satisfied.

Some parents found the proposed changes disruptive to their youngsters, and Wood and the board have said they want to accommodate parents where they can, but that factors such as building capacity, population distribution, racial mix and the desegregation requirements, plus cost effectiveness, all come into play.

Wood says he wants to keep neighborhoods together and create zones that won’t have to be redrawn after Tolleson and Arnold Drive elementary schools are combined in a single new school.

Across the six JNP elementary schools, there should be a capacity surplus of 520 students next year, but they have to be balanced by geography and race.

Bayou Meto elementary enrollment is only 7 percent black, but after proposed rezoning, that will climb to 21percent, still the lowest minority enrollment among the schools, with the highest black student prevalence next year of 71 percent for Murrell Taylor and 69 percent for Tolleson.

It is anticipated that when Arnold Drive and Tolleson open in one new school, the enrollment will be 407, with 46 percent of those black students.


Since the new district will have a single high school and a single middle school, attendance for those schools is district wide.

The current attendance zone map and the map of proposed zones have been posted at JNPSD.org under “News,” as is the 2016-2017 school calendar.

The district must choose mascots and colors for one high schools and one middle school.

At 7:15 p.m. Monday, April 21, the public can weigh-in on the three current suggestions for school mascots and school colors for Jacksonville High School and Jacksonville Middle School, their variants or other suggestions.

Wood expects a vote on those issues to be on the agenda for the May 2 school board meeting.

The transition committee facilitated by Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh recommended three alternatives:

A: Red and gold for both middle school and high school, with the Phoenix or Firebirds for the mascots.

B: Red and White for both middle and high schools and a Red Devil mascot with an option of gold trim.

C: No change in colors—red and white for the high school, maroon and gold for the middle school; with the high school mascot continuing to be Red Devils, and for the middle school, the Falcons.

The board emerged from executive session to hire 30 employees, 26 of them certified.

Licensed employees hired include:

Jamee Blasinggame, middle school math; Sarah Booth, middle school social studies; Michael Boyd, middle school English and language arts; Cherie Brown, middle school science, and Larry Burrows, head baseball coach.

Gregory Chamber, middle school math; Grace Evans, middle school social studies; Lydia Hardin, middle school science; Barry Hickingbotham, head football coach, and Sarah Hoffman, middle school math.

Evelyn House, middle school English language arts; Brandon Hoyt, middle school science; Don Lantrip, K-12 special education; Reggie Nalls, middle school science, and Lamont Page, middle school social studies.

Amber Reynolds, middle school social studies; Monica Ring, middle school math; Katie Roberts, secondary math; Sonya Ross, middle school math; and Jacob Smith, director of student services.

Emily Wells, secondary math; Kathy Williams, middle school English language arts, Jerry Wilson, athletic director; Wood, superintendent, Angie Wright, middle school language arts; Richard Wrightner, elementary, fourth and fifth grade.

Among classified employees, Stewart was rehired as chief of staff. Others hired include Paul Spencer Mayfield, director of maintenance, John Sparks, director of transportation and Clint Walker, director of child nutrition.

The school calendar was set in cooperation with PCSSD, Little Rock and North Little Rock districts. Barring weather and makeup days, the 2016-2017 school year ends May 26.