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VIDEO: State takes over PCSSD

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published June 20, 2011 at 2:26 p.m. Updated June 20, 2011 at 4:43 p.m.


Dr. Charles Hopson speaks at a January meeting.

Commissioner talks about PCSSD decision

Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell talked Monday afternoon about his decision to dissolve the PCSSD...

— The superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District has been removed and the board dissolved amid ongoing financial problems revealed in state audits.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell announced Monday afternoon the state would take control of the troubled district. He said he made the decision in consultation with Gov. Mike Beebe and noted that the district had "exhibited a lack of basic financial accountability."

"The whole tone at the top ... continued to be a problem," Kimbrell said during a news conference at Department of Education headquarters in Little Rock. "When the leader of the district is making decisions that are in violation of policies of the district, you need to go in a different direction."

Kimbrell's move came a little more than a week after the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee issued a unanimous, non-binding recommendation that the state Department of Education take over the Pulaski County district because of ongoing problems.

Superintendent Charles Hopson was reportedly informed of the changes Monday afternoon.

Kimbrell said conversations with Hopson and other district officials were professional, but he declined to elaborate on the talks. He said the state is not obligated to fulfill Hopson's contract.

Former PCSSD Superintendent Bobby Lester, who retired in 1999 after 34 years in the district, will lead it on an interim basis, answering directly to Kimbrell. Phyllis Stewart, Department of Education chief of staff, will assist Lester.

The troubles facing the Pulaski County Special district were first revealed in April 2010 after the Division of Legislative Audit uncovered numerous financial and organizational issues. Three months later, the Department sent a letter identifying the audit findings as "extremely serious" and warning the district could be placed on fiscal distress.

The State Board of Education placed the district on fiscal distress in May, a move that allowed Kimbrell to exercise the state takeover.

The announcement came hours after a similar move with the Helena-West Helena School District.

In addition to the financial difficulties revealed in the audit, the Pulaski County Special School District may have to make millions in budget cuts after a May 19 federal court ruling that freed the state from paying desegregation funds.

The Pulaski County district, along with the Little Rock School District and the North Little Rock School District, received about $70 million in annual desegregation money before U.S. District Judge Brian Miller's ruling ending the funding.

The districts appealed and are awaiting a decision from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the funding will continue until the appeal process is complete.

Kimbrell referred questions on the legality of the desegregation funding to the attorney general's office. He said officials are already looking at ways to trim the budget but that it's too early to say what that will mean in terms of jobs or other cuts.

"It's never easy," Kimbrell said. "It's never easy to cut budget, whether it's in state government or the school district."

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Thank you for coming to the Web site of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. We're working to keep you informed with the latest breaking news.

Print Headline: Superintendent dismissed, board dissolved


Comments on: VIDEO: State takes over PCSSD

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AdodiBro says... June 20, 2011 at 2:39 p.m.

Wow! This is indeed a shock. What's going to become of the operation of the teachers & substitutes, such as myself? I've been a loyal substitute of this district for many years. I guess we'll hope for the best.

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fjm347 says... June 20, 2011 at 3:53 p.m.

OK, now that the first step has been taken?

Is anything going to be done to make some of these members pay back monry that they shouldnt have used for personal benifits !!!!!

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JIMBOB47 says... June 20, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.

Let's face it. We live in a socialist state with the State Gov't Agencies being the anarchists 'in charge'. What will be next? You can forget local control of anything. Your cities will be next after some 'agency head' declares them a failure .....

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wolfman says... June 20, 2011 at 4:03 p.m.

dang jimbob, layoff the fox news for awhile. you are talking about a child's education here. in this case it was mis management to the point blowing money they didn't have and it should've went elsewhere.

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JIMBOB47 says... June 20, 2011 at 4:12 p.m.

I'm just sayin'... Watch out. The state has means to make changes to districts out of control. After all, the state collects the money from the local districts, then goes about their role of 're-distributing' the wealth. They could have possibly ditched the board members who seem to be the most cause of the condition - and I'm pretty sure they know who that would be. Removing ALL of the elected people is a stretch - and removing the superintendent will undoubtedly cost us another buyout (re: how many Little Rock 'leaders' have been bought out in the last 5 years?). So --- to the people/voters/taxpayers of the Pulaski County School District: who represents you now? Gov. BB Brain?

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prpearce says... June 20, 2011 at 4:14 p.m.

It's about time the three districts quit wasting money on lawyers and start spending it on educating children. The lawyers have gotten rich over the last 20 odd years while the state report cards still show schools in these three districts as failing the students. The best way to change directions and renew the commitment to the children is to replace the administration. So quit all the law suits and go back to educating the children. The districts cannot have their cake and eat it too. They are either desegregated or they aren't. If they are and they have been trying to prove they are, then the money needs to stop. If they are not then all of the administrations and school board members need to be removed and new leaders put in place. The current leadership has had plenty of time to get this done. The money from the state needs to be spent on education, not legal fees; or it should stop.

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LeGrandOurs says... June 20, 2011 at 4:24 p.m.

A similar event happened--obviously, on a larger scale--with the Orleans Parish School board where, in 2005, the state of Louisiana had to take over due to major malfeasance and misappropriation of federal funds intended to help low income, public school children. We should be at least happy Arkansas didn't standby and watch a deficit of $30M occur (as in the Orleans Parish School District) before finally stepping in and taking over the PCSSD. Clearly, a bunch of the $70M PCSSD and its school district cousin used to receive in desegragation funding wasn't just going to "the children". We've all seen this act before, and it never turns out well for "the children". Not for New Jersey children, not for New Orleans children, and it wasn't going so well for LR area public school children.

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LR1955 says... June 20, 2011 at 4:45 p.m.

JIMBOB47 says...Let's face it. We live in a socialist state with the State Gov't Agencies being the anarchists 'in charge'. What will be next? You can forget local control of anything. Your cities will be next after some 'agency head' declares them a failure .....

THEY WERE TRYING BUT THEY WERE A FAILURE ! The Super and the Board ! It was the board president that went to the State and ask them to bust up the board because it wasn't working out. Let's hope the teachers pick up the slack (with out the dead weight dragging them down) and the new buildings make a difference ! The buildings PCSSD have suffered for years of budget cuts.

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Mojoron says... June 20, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.

Shock? The PCSSD should of been disbanded ten years ago or at least after the dismal test results that the students got. This is a great example of when government involves itself in education by throwing money at a problem. Money NEVER solves anything, commitment, involvement and sound planning does. Obviously, the 70 Million dollars was well spent and I'm sure that the state will throw more money at the problem.

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Duggie says... June 20, 2011 at 5:16 p.m.

PCSSD is a joke, it always has been. I pitty the parent with children in the school district. After I graduated in the mid 70,s I vowed my children would never have to endure what I went through. They turn out a good crop of McDonalds employees

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