State Board takes over School District, Closes a Charter School

(KATV) Little Rock -{}Some big moves by the State Board of Education Monday. The state is taking over the Pine Bluff Dollarway School District. Also, a charter school did not get renewed for next school year, and another is on probation.

It is a court room setting, everyone is sworn in and gives there case. The morning started with Dollarway, a district given several strikes for poor performance, finance and standards violations. The board voted unanimously to remove Superintendent Bettye Wright and take over the district.

This is the Dollarway District's second consecutive year in probationary status. According to a board member, the facilities are in the lowest 5 percent of performing schools.

Commissioner Tom Kimbrell with the Arkansas Department of Education says, "You need to get in there and change the culture and get the right leadership in there and get the staff and community to rally behind that school."

The Arkansas Department of Education is currently running the Pulaski County and Helena West Helena districts because of fiscal distress. Dollarway has been taken over for standards violations.

Next on the list, Dreamland Charter school where disadvantaged, under performing kids go. Superintendent Brendley Clark says, "Our scores improved double and no other school in the state that made the gains." But a recent review resulted in a 'poor' score in nearly ever area. The board voted unanimously not to renew the charter. Outside the building, parent Imani screams, "My daughter went to Arkansas Public Schools. They kicked her, they degraded her, she was ready to kill herself. She tried to commit suicide. They [the board] sits there with their judgmental self and could care less about these kids. My daughter came out of Dreamland with her head held high."

Last, Covenant Keepers Charter. Superintendent Valerie Tatum took out a $62,000 loan to keep the school out of the red because the lease went up, but she didn't inform the board. That's a violation. The district was given a one year probation and have to report their budget every quarter. Tatum says she got the loan with good intentions and regrets it. "We want to do what the State Board is asking us to do. They are on a mission and we're on one too to come back strong next year."




The Arkansas State Board of Education has taken over the Dollarway School District, dissolving its school board.

State Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell said there is a myriad of problems at Dollarway because of finances and standards issues and any action to fix those problems will be completely up to the State Board.

"We've gone down this road two years in a row, obviously some serious infractions," Board Member Jim Cooper said regarding the Dollarway district.

Dollarway Superintendent Dr. Bettye Dunn Wright said the death of a school counselor contributed to transcript problems at the school.

Board Member Brenda Gullett pointed out that Wright hasn't been on the job for a year yet and that many problems started before she took the job.

Wright said she would not oppose the Department taking over the district if that's what's best for the district's students.