Hope School Board

By Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools, 11/16/21 9:37 PM

Board defers election measure

HOPE – The Hope Public Schools Board of Education deferred action on recommendations Nov. 15 which were to put new board representation zones into place and learned that the Eighth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied HPS’ motion for rehearing by the full court of its school choice exemption appeal.

A called session of the board on Nov. 18 is planned to address the board zone changes.

The board unanimously voted, with Zone 4 Representative Jimmy Courtney and Zone 7 Representative Alvis Hamilton absent, to send new board representation zone maps back Monticello, Ar., based EFS Technologies for revisions to Zone 1 and Zone 7.

Zone 1 is represented by Viney Johnson and Zone 7 is represented by Alvis Hamilton.

Johnson expressed concerns that the street-level configuration of her new zone, while remaining a minority-majority district, moved some residents who were historically part of her district.

Johnson said she has been a board member for 30 years and has served through two redistricting processes but never seen her zone’s population increase as much as the EFS figures indicated.

Zone 3 Representative Margaret Moss also expressed concerns that Hamilton’s zone reflected a shift from a slight minority-majority zone to a significant white-majority zone.

HPS Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Crossley said the new districts were drawn to respond to population changes in 2020 which put three zones above the standard population deviation of five percent from zero and three districts significantly below the standard deviation.

“They gave us one version to change the zones the least amount to remain within the law,” Dr. Crossley said.

Crossley said the zones were drawn to retain the incumbent within their zone and to minimize so-called “block splits.”

HPS attorney Whitney Moore, of Camden, said the new maps appeared to follow the Census.

“I think they’ve done this because the populations increased more in Zones 1 and 6 than in Zones 2, 4, 5 and 7,” Moore said. “If they shift these lines (Zones 1, 7) they will have to shift from somewhere else.”

Redrawing of board zones is the result of population changes from the 2020 U.S. Census based upon the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and must be completed by December in order to conduct elections in May, 2022.

EFS GeoTechnolgies was retained by the board in October to produce demographic and geographic data and possible applications based upon the 2020 Census.

Moore told the board in October state and federal law require board zones of substantially equal voting age populations and state law requires an equal number of board seats be subject to election annually. Moore explained after the rezoning process, board members will be required to draw for placement of their terms after the 2022 election.

Also, during the Nov. 15 session, Crossley informed the board of the Eighth U. S. Circuit’s denial of the district’s motion for rehearing by the full Court of its appeal.

Moore said the action was disappointing and she will present policy revision language for the board to consider in December to comply with state school choice law.

Zone 2 Representative David “Bubba” Powers thanked Moore and her partner, the late Allen Roberts, for their work.

“Thank you for fighting the fight,” Powers said. “In essence, we don’t really have any choice but to sign off?”

“At this point, no,” Moore replied. “You don’t have a court order that would comply with the statute.”

“So, if you want your student to have the best in programs like athletics, band, arts, collegiate academy and many other programs, you need to send your student to the Hope Public Schools,” Board President Linda Haynes quipped.

The Court issued its Nov. 8 order without opinion. The en banc appeal stemmed from an atypical reversal of the original ruling of the three-judge panel in the case that agreed with U. S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey’s extension of a 1989 civil rights lawsuit consent decree by the Hope Public Schools to preclude so-called “school choice” transfers.

The Arkansas Department of Education sought a rehearing of that ruling with the U.S. Department of Justice joining and the panel reversed itself, noting that federal law does not require school districts to maintain racial balance within the district, which it took as the heart of the HPS argument.

In other matters, the board:

–Recognized Zone 3 Representative Margaret Moss and Zone 7 Representative Alvis Hamilton for attaining the Arkansas School Board Association Certificate of Boardmanship.

–Discussed the job description for a proposed second district social worker.

–Voted to rebid contracts for the planned renovation of Jones Field House after the general contractor said increases of about $40,000 made it necessary.

–Discussed the proposed addition of a Special Education Department teacher and the creation of two new social worker positions.

–Approved the purchase of electronic teaching aids for classrooms.

–Approved a facilities use request from Hope Youth Bobcat Basketball.

–Voted to accept a recommendation for student discipline.

–Adopted recommendations in the district personnel packet.

–Recognized November Superintendent’s Award of Excellence recipients.

Mask usage will remain for HPS

HOPE – The Hope Public Schools Board of Education agreed Nov. 15 with a recommendation by HPS Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Crossley to continue its policy requiring the use of face masks on all HPS campuses and in all district facilities.

Dr. Crossley said the recommendation stemmed from the current status of COVID-19 cases across the district.

“We saw a lot of low numbers for our district; however, across the county we have some 50 students quarantined,” Crossley said.

He recommended continuing mask usage through the holidays and basketball season.

The requirement will apply to indoor activities at HPS facilities as basketball season begins this week.

Board hears YMS academy proposal

HOPE – A proposal for an academy designed as a “school within a school” focused upon intervention and workforce development for the Yerger Middle School campus was outlined Nov. 15 for the Hope Public Schools Board of Education.

NOLA Education, LLC, of New Orleans, La., develops and operates its Star Academy program for school districts using hands-on, career-readiness methodologies in a grades 7-9 environment for students who are academically behind, according to the company’s literature.

HPS Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Crossley said the proposal is part of a $900,000 grant written for the Yerger campus.

“It’s explicitly directed toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics),” Dr. Cossley said.

He said the program is part of an overall magnet school grant which the district has written. Crossley said planning for an 80-student pilot program at Yerger is anticipated this year to be fully implemented in the 2021-2022 academic year. The grant for the program would not include teacher salaries, he said.

The program boasts a 95 percent national average improvement rate on standardized test scores along with an 84 percent national student promotion rate of two grades in one year, according to its literature.

Using a core curriculum of more than 100 career concepts, the Star Academy teaches “soft skills” development in combination with exposure to specific career fields that allows students to move into a broader workforce development program such as the Bobcats Work program adopted by the district.

Star Academy builds upon three pillars including academic achievement, career exposure and preparation and employability skills development.

The program provides all equipment, materials and furnishings for its operation on a campus and uses all-inclusive support services such as educational support specialists, curriculum coaches, internet technology technicians and program liaisons along with teacher professional development for its operation.