City of Sherwood hopes Pulaski County desegregation settlement is overturned

SHERWOOD (KATV) - The Pulaski County desegregation settlement faces a fairness hearing Monday in federal court - a move that could soon end decades of court battles and nearly a billion dollars in state funding to three Little Rock area schools.

Nine separate entities filed objection letters to the settlement, but one group stands to lose the most in this case. The Sherwood Public Education Foundation, the commission charged with researching detaching from Pulaski County Special Schools and creating its own district, they're upset because this settlement stops them right in their tracks.

Linda Remele, co-chair of the Sherwood Public Education Foundation said she agrees with 98% of the settlement and believes desegregation payments should end to PCSSD, Little Rock Schools and North Little Rock Schools. However Remele strongly disagrees with one sentence of the settlement which reads:

"The State will oppose the creation of any other school districts from PCSSD's territory until PCSSD is declared fully unitary and is released from federal court supervision."

"They added a sentence at the last minute that said no other territory could follow Arkansas state statutes and we find that very troubling," said Remele.

The provision creates an exclusion for the city of Jacksonville however. Remele believes they received an exception because they were farther along in the process of creating their own district.

She filed an objection letter from the Sherwood Public Education Foundation citing that unitary provision as grounds for their objection. The letter shares several reasons as to why Sherwood finds the provision in the desegregation settlement to be "discriminatory" - mainly pointing out how quickly Sherwood is growing and the diverse demographics a Sherwood school district would include.

Remele wishes unitary status wouldn't be far off for the Pulaski County Special School District, but she's worried that won't be the case.

"We would like to think it would be soon," said Remele. "When this all started in the early 1980s we had no idea we would be standing here in 2014."

That's why Remele along with Sherwood's mayor, Virginia Hillman and others will be in attendance Monday in front of U.S. District Judge Price Marshall - hoping he will change the settlement.

"We're thinking that the judge will listen to us and see if our case has merit and take whatever steps are within his power to treat all resident of Pulaski County fairly," said Remele.

If Sherwood were to create its own school district the district would absorb nine PCSSD schools: Sylvan Hills High School, Sylvan Hills Middle School, Sylvan Hills Elementary School, Northwood Middle School, Cato, Clinton, Harris, Oakbrooke & Sherwood.

But in order to make things fair for Sherwood, Marshall would have to strike down the settlement in its entirety - something even Attorney General Dustin McDaniel believes is likely not to happen.

If the Judge Marshall does strike down the settlement following the two day fairness hearing, the case will go to trial. A trial date has already been set for sometime in March if need be.