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Education Notebook

by Cynthia Howell | October 25, 2020 at 3:01 a.m.

County district

refinancing debt

The Pulaski County Special School District is refinancing its debt on 2015 bond issues at a lower interest rate.

As a result, the district will generate $4,964,776 in savings -- most of which will be realized in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 fiscal years.

The bond sale will occur Nov. 5, Jack Truemper of Stephens Inc. recently told the board.

The district received six bids for the bond issue, with the winning interest rate bid of 1.625480% coming from Mesirow Financial Inc. In contrast, the 2015 second lien bonds were initially issued with interest rates approaching 3.5%, Truemper said.

Charles McNulty, superintendent of the district, said the nearly $5 million in anticipated savings on debt payments comes at a time when the district is in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic and facing escalating expenses that include increased costs for safety and sanitization. The district is also seeing a decline in enrollment this year, which could reduce state funding to the district in the 2021-22 school year.

The district's Oct. 1 enrollment was 349 students fewer than last year's Oct. 1 enrollment, McNulty said.

Discipline of six

teachers favored

A majority of the Little Rock School District's Community Advisory Board last week voted to support the superintendent's recommendation to suspend for up to five days and dock the pay of six teachers who refused to teach their classes in-person on Sept. 28.

The advisory board's recommendations now go to Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key, who has the final say on the appeals from the employees. Key acts in lieu of an elected school board in the state-controlled school district.

The Little Rock Education Association, a union of district employees, voted in September to teach only virtually out of concern about inadequate covid precautions at the schools. A total of 69 teachers followed through Sept. 28. Teachers resumed in-person instruction the next day, but those who were absent from campuses the one day were ultimately given notice of the suspensions and loss of pay.

Six of those 69 had closed-to-the-public appeal hearings Thursday, Jordan Eason, the district's director of employee relations and benefits administrator, said Friday.

"The employees either received a recommendation for a three-day suspension without pay or a five-day suspension without pay, depending on their individual situation regarding the most recent work action," Eason said. "This is in addition to a day of docked pay on Sept. 28," she said.

Eason declined to provide the names of the six who appealed Thursday night as all decisions on the matter have not been made final.

LISA Academy

completes move

The LISA Academy Public Charter Schools has fulfilled its plan -- approved by the state last school year -- to relocate its Lisa Academy West High School from Corporate Hill Drive to a newly renovated building at 6711 W. Markham St.

The building that is now serving more than 450 ninth- through-12th-graders is at West Markham and Hughes streets. It was originally built as Christ Lutheran High School but has since been used by two other charter school organizations.

Most recently the building -- now owned by KLS Leasing that is an arm of the Walton Family Foundation of Bentonville -- housed one of two Little Rock Preparatory Academy campuses. LISA Academy and Little Rock Preparatory entered into an agreement in which LISA Academy took over the Markham site from the Preparatory Academy that gave up its state charter.

The high school campus is made up of 27 classrooms, a gymnasium, eight science/engineering labs, art and music rooms, cafeteria/auditorium and offices, all equipped with educational technology.

The building upgrades were designed by WER Architects, and the construction was done by Clark Contractors.

The LISA Academy system showcased the completed renovation and relocation of the campus last week with an event that featured Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, state Board of Education chairwoman Charisse Dean, former Little Rock Preparatory Academy board member Charles Stewart, and LISA Academy student Melih Karabacak.

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