AP NEWS

State Board assumes authority of Lee County School District

March 26, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The state Board of Education has voted to take control of an eastern Arkansas school district, immediately removing the district’s superintendent and school board.

The unanimous vote on Monday followed the education board’s decision to place the Lee County district and Lee County High School on probation for violating state certification standards that require upkeep of student records for graduation, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The board overruled an appeal made by Elizabeth Johnson, the superintendent of the district since March 2018, and her employees that the 718-student district not be put on probation. Johnson called the decision “a total injustice” to a veteran administrative team who were hired to help the district last year. Johnson argued that the existing administrators were being punished for the work of past administrators.

Deborah Coffman, the state Department of Education assistant commissioner for public school accountability, told the board that the district breached state standards by not maintaining correct, up-to-date transcripts for its students. Coffman also noted the parents and students weren’t given proper guidance to schedule the minimum 22 course credits that are needed to graduate.

“This is egregious and needs to be resolved immediately,” Coffman said about the student transcripts and the need of high school students — including seniors — to make up course work required for graduation.

Both of the district’s campuses have state-issued F letter grades. But until Monday, the district was not on probation for violating state standards for operating a school or district.

In 2014, the state took over the district due to academic, financial and ultimately accreditation issues, including problems with course coding and class scheduling that impacted the students’ ability to graduate. It was subsequently returned to local control but in April 2017, the district was cited for neglecting to meet the state-mandated students-to-counselor ratio and for failing to offer and teach the minimum 38 courses required for a high school.

There are now five districts functioning under the state’s authority. In addition to Lee County, state-appointed administrators are operating the Little Rock, Dollarway, Earle and Pine Bluff school districts.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com