LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to return the Dollarway School District to local control after two years of state control.
The board voted to take over the district in June 2012 after it failed to meet accreditation standards for two consecutive years. The superintendent and school board were removed at that time, and state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell appointed former Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Frank Anthony as superintendent.
Bobby Acklin, former assistant superintendent of the North Little Rock School District, replaced Anthony last July.
The 1,313-student Dollarway district has met all accreditation standards for the past two years, John Hoy of the state Department of Education told the state board Thursday.
The district was on probation in the 2010-11 school year because of a teacher who taught out of the teacher’s area of licensure and in the 2011-12 school year because of irregularities with students’ transcripts.
Acklin told the board Thursday that “all of our transcripts are in order.”
“There are still challenges,” he said. “There probably always will be challenges of keeping good teachers. We seem to be able to get good teachers, but because of our pay structure we are unable to keep them.”
Acklin said the high school is in academic distress, but test scores have improved in some areas. He also said that for the first time in seven years, enrollment is not declining.
“Our financial situation is not good, but we’re stable,” he said.
Acklin also said he hoped that a locally elected school board would let him stay on as superintendent.
“My goal is to retire there,” he said.
Board member Diane Zook said she was concerned about allowing the district to elect a local school board only to have the state possibly step in and remove it because of academic distress.
Kimbrell said it is only Dollarway High School, not the entire district, that is in academic distress, and that different options are available to address distressed schools. He also said that since the district had resolved the issues that prompted a state takeover, the state may not have authority to continue controlling it.
“We’re not real sure that after two years we really have much legal ground to continue to operate that school district, particularly since we’ve got a community that really wants to try to prove themselves,” he said.
The board also heard appeals Thursday from six school districts that were placed on probation by the Education Department for violating accreditation standards by not teaching all of the 38 courses that districts are required to teach.
Drew Central Superintendent Billy Williams said the district was faulted for not meeting its foreign language requirements, but he said the error was corrected in the second semester of the school year. The board denied the appeal.
The superintendents of the Arkadelphia, Lavaca and Malvern school districts told the board they each used an Advanced Placement course to satisfy a course requirement but failed to notify the department of the substitution. The board granted their appeals.
Cross County Superintendent Carolyn Wilson told the board that “a coding error” caused the district to appear not to be offering all of the required courses. The board granted the appeal.
Wynne Superintendent Carl Easley said the district was faulted for using an AP calculus course to satisfy a course requirement without notifying the department and for failing to meet its math requirements, an error he said the district corrected in the second semester. The board denied the appeal.