Tuesday, June 06, 2017

TOP STORY >> Building boom for district

Leader senior staff writer

The hardest part — financing — of building two new schools for Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is all but done. The board has authorized the sale to Robert W. Baird and Co., the low bidder among four with an interest rate of 3.24 percent, with board president Daniel Gray signing off on the sale before leaving on vacation and board secretary-treasurer Carol Miles expected to sign as early as Tuesday. Neither was at the Monday meeting.

“This is the fun part,” said Scott Beardsley of First Security Beardsley Public Finance.

Now the district can move forward building a flagship $62 million Jacksonville High School on the rise behind Crain Ford and overlooking Hwy. 67/167, and a new elementary school on General Samuels Road to serve the zones currently sending students to Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools.

Designs by WER Architects have been approved nearly to the point of construction documents, with Baldwin and Shell serving as the general contractor.

The new $16 million elementary school should be ready for students by August 2018 and the high school a year later.

Superintendent Tony Wood says the district has about $101 million for construction and renovation, including $4 million in roofing and HVAC improvements to the Jacksonville Middle School, and a multipurpose building each for Murrell Taylor and Bayou Meto elementary schools.


Bids for construction of the high school are slated to be opened July 17 and bids are currently out on the elementary school.

More than 90 percent of the affected patrons voted to create the new Jacksonville-area district, but when it came time to vote on the 7.6-mill increase that financed this $46 million bond sale, it passed only about 55 percent to 45 percent.

In addition to that, the state match on qualifying construction provides another $29 million and the last installment of state desegregation money added $10,151,673.

A second-lien bond slated for fall of 2018 will provide another $10.5 million.

A $4.5 million cash transfer from PCSSD, part of the division of assets, is already in the bank and the district has $3 million available from the sale of the $15 million bond issue.


The closing and transfer of funds is set for June 15, with $45,575,349 to the construction fund and $53,545 in the bond fund, both at Bank of the Ozarks.

Construction of new and improved schools was a condition of Jacksonville getting its own district and is central to the district getting out of the ongoing desegregation lawsuit.

The meeting also was the last regular board meeting before Wood retires. Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh becomes Arkansas Education Department deputy commissioner for educator effectiveness and licensure, and Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart retires to take a job with Baptist Prep.

State Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) awarded state citations to the three for the pivotal role they played in helping the new district to and through its first year.

The citation noted Wood’s 45 years of outstanding service to education of Arkansas students and thanked him for being instrumental guiding the new district to success.

Stewart was also cited for 45 years of service including stints as chief of staff for the state Department of Education and the JNPSD. In Stewart’s absence, former interim JNPSD superintendent Bobby Lester accepted her citation.


Johnson noted he was the fourth representative, dating back decades, to help create a Jacksonville district. Pat Bond followed by her son Will Bond, and Mark Perry preceded Johnson.

Jacksonville Senior High Principal Gail Biggs presented each of board members with a framed remembrance of the district’s first year in existence.

She said the district’s first graduating class wanted to recognize the board members for their tireless effort — putting their money where their mouth is — and said board member Jim Moore ought to have an office at the high school, he spent so much time volunteering there.


The board recognized Angela Sprow of Bayou Met0 Elementary as the district’s first teacher of the year, with John Birmingham of Bayou Meto Elementary recognized as elementary school teacher of the year, Deborah Lutz as middle schoolteacher of the year, and Katie Roberts as the high school teacher of the year.

The board agreed to pay the parent involvement facilitator at each school a $600 stipend in the future.

The number of students served free breakfast nearly doubled this year to 2,406 per day and lunches increased by 645 per day to 2,454.

The JNPSD transportation department will be one of six school districts to receive recognition as one of the safest bus fleets in the state.


The district received a $23,543 grant from the National Association of Pupil Transport, with which it bought and installed hardware to will allow tracking on 45 buses, that will track where students load and unload o a district bus.

Parents will be able to see where their students got on and off the bus and parents and staff will be able to see where their bus is and when it will arrive.

Current ridership is 2,684.

The board approved a proposed budget of expenditures, which must appear on the school ballot in September, unanimously.

As prepared by Beardsley, the estimated $44,651,049 budget will include about $23.4 million would be for salary and benefits; $8.4 million for instructional expense; $4.1 million for maintenance and operation; $4 million for bonded debt payment, $3.9 million for pupil transportation; $415,000 for other operating expense and $357,000 for dedicated maintenance.


Even though school is out for the year, five students were expelled. Three are expelled for this year and will return on probation at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

The fourth student was expelled until January 2018 to return then on probation, and the fifth student is expelled through the next school year and can return on probation for the 2018-19 school year.