Redfield charter school review slated Friday

The Arkansas Board of Education is scheduled Friday to review a Nov. 14 decision by the Arkansas Department of Education’s Charter Authorizing Panel to deny a charter to the proposed Redfield Tri-County Charter School. The review is included in the agenda for a 9 a.m. meeting in the ADE Auditorium in Little Rock.

The authorization panel on Dec. 5 voted against allowing the Redfield Tri-County Charter School Organization to resubmit its application to open the facility. On Dec. 16, the state board authorized the upcoming review. ADE spokesman Kimberly Friedman said Tuesday that the board could vote to grant or deny a charter.

“I sure hope they’re successful,” Redfield Mayor Tony Lawhon said Tuesday of RTCSO. “It would be awesome for Redfield to have the charter school. I’ll support them as much as I can.”

Friedman said the November charter denial was based on financial and curriculum issues. The authorization panel encouraged RTCSO representatives to reapply after addressing the matters in question.

RTCSO Secretary Amanda Kight later told the board that she had discovered after the fact that panelists had mistakenly attributed to the Redfield application information from another charter school’s proposal.

The proposed Tri-County Charter School expects to gain students from Jefferson, Grant and Pulaski counties. It is currently aimed at serving grades 5-8 with an anticipated student enrollment of 175. An upward class would be added annually through the 12th grade.

The Redfield charter school push 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. White Hall Middle School is now receiving Redfield’s middle school-age students.

The Redfield City Council voted in February to petition the school board to deed Redfield Middle School to a nonprofit group that would utilize the facility as a charter school. But the board last month voted to auction the property at a “fair market value” to a “responsible” bidder — one who can pay cash. The school’s worth was recently figured at $391,000.

White Hall Superintendent Larry Smith and the board said they had received legal opinions that because the school is involved in a current bond issue, it cannot be given away. Bids are being received until 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, when a bid opening will be held at the district’s Julius Brown Administration Building.

In a related development, the City of Redfield on Dec. 23 received a gift that could provide assistance for the purchase of the former RMS.

Redfield developer and contractor Kourash Malek deeded the former Little Rock home of the late businessman and philanthropist Jennings Osborne to the city. Plans are that the home, located at 4 Robinwood Drive along Cantrell Road. which has an appraised value of $1.6 million, will be sold with proceeds going toward the schoolhouse’s purchase.

Malek purchased the home for $291,500 in a 2012 auction held to aid in satisfying Osborne family debts. Osborne died in 2011.

Lawhon said Tuesday that he had filed paperwork on the house and was seeking a sales agent. He said he has shown the property to a few potential buyers.

“I’m hoping we get as much out of it as we possibly can,” Lawhon said.