Ed board upholds denial of Redfield charter school

The Arkansas Board of Education voted 7-1 Friday in Little Rock to uphold a November denial of an application for the proposed Redfield Tri-County Charter School.

The concerns that led to the board’s decision were the same as those that prompted the previous unanimous decision by the Charter Authorizing Panel — curriculum and finances.

Amanda Kight of the Redfield Tri-County School Organization said the group’s aim is to right any wrongs in those areas and be prepared to apply again in November 2014.

“We’ve learned a lot in this process,” she said after Friday’s appeal. “We’re going to stay together, continue our meetings and remain focused. I’m disappointed in today’s decision, but we’re determined and we’ll be back.”

Redfield Alderwoman Carol Eagle said she is a strong advocate of the charter school and is saddened by the board’s rejection.

“I’m very disappointed, too, but I’m proud of the effort made on the application and all the hard work and support,” she said. “It’s going to happen one day. We’ll have the charter school. It’s just a shame that it won’t happen for the next school year.

“But the area that would be served by the school (Jefferson, Grant and Pulaski counties) is unified on this,” she continued. “Redfield isn’t built around that school. We’re still growing. We’ll be just fine, but it’s heartbreaking that the application wasn’t approved today.”

The proposed school would initially serve grades five through eight with an anticipated student enrollment of 175. An upward class is to be added annually through the 12th grade.

The charter school plan followed a January 2013 decision by the White Hall School Board to close the district’s Redfield Middle School at the end of the 2012-13 academic year.

Kight has told the state board that some students within the proposed charter school area are currently bused 20 miles to school. Redfield’s middle school-aged children now attend White Hall Middle School.

Eagle and Kight said charter school proponents are deserving of appreciation.

“There have been many people who have made financial contributions and given their time to the cause,” Eagle said.

“I want to thank everyone in the entire community,” Kight said. “There’s been a lot of hard work behind this.”

The Charter Authorizing Panel had denied the charter proposal because it said the application lacked important information, including a curriculum.

Kight told the state board Friday that officials planned to develop a curriculum later.

Education Board member Toyce Newton of Crossett said she understood the Charter Authorizing Panel’s concern.

“I can’t seem to conscience individually where approving a charter without a specified curriculum makes a lot of sense,” Newton said. “I think that there’s a time and place for that to be worked out, but I certainly think it’s before we approve a charter.”

The vote upholding denial of the charter came after a motion by board member Alice Mahony of El Dorado to give the applicants two months to revise their application died for lack of a second. Mahony cast the only vote against the board’s decision.

John Lyon of the Arkansas News Bureau contributed to this report.