Arkansas takes control of Pine Bluff School District

The state says the Pine Bluff School District's spending, coupled with declining student enrollment led to shrinking revenue. (Photo: KATV)

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) -- The Arkansas Board of Education has unanimously voted for the state to take control of the Pine Bluff School District after declaring it fiscally distressed and unlikely to have enough money to operate by the end of the school year.

According to the Pine Bluff Commercial , the state board removed the interim superintendent of the school district, Monica McMurray, on Thursday and dissolved the district's school board.

The state says the district's spending coupled with declining student enrollment led to shrinking revenue, with the district projected to have a $2 million deficit by April 2019.

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key has named Dr. Jeremy Owoh, as superintendent for the district while under state control. Owoh is ADE's assistant commissioner of educator effectiveness and has previously served with the Little Rock School District as a principal and held other administrative positions in schools within Pulaski County.

Pine Bluff joins the Dollarway, Earle and Little Rock school districts as being under state control.

Former Interim Superintendent Monica McMurray has been placed back in the position she was originally hired with the district for - executive director for learning services. McMurray tells KATV it was evident that the district was headed toward fiscal distress after getting a chance to look at the district's budget when she took over as interim superintendent back in June when the now disbanded school board opted to buy out the contract of former superintendent Michael Robinson.

"It's not a good feeling to know that you are the one sitting in that position having to talk to people about the crisis of the district," said McMurray.

McMurray said she fears the district's finances aren't their only problem. She believes district ACT scores suggest a label of academic distress isn't far off either.

"We have two D's and four F's," said McMurray. "So again, it's not a cute situation, and there's no other way to say it. We have some serious issues that we are going to have to address in our district."

KATV reached out to the now former Pine Bluff School District school board president, vice-president and secretary. President Herman Horace told Channel 7 he had "no comment", while a call to Vice President Lakishia Hill went unreturned.

Former PBSD school board Secretary Marinda Williams released this statement:

"It is very disheartening that the Pine Bluff School District is now in the control of the state, however, as a parent and productive citizen of Pine Bluff; I will continue to ensure that the children of Pine Bluff School District are the priority. I respect the decision of the Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner and Board of Directors and will work with the school district to improve the education system in Jefferson County."

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