Former Dollarway superintendent questions decision to remove her


Former Dollarway School District superintendent Bettye Dunn-Wright filed a petition for judicial review with the Pulaski County Circuit Court Wednesday asking it to determine whether her dismissal was constitutional.

The Arkansas State Board of Education decided in June to take over the district, terminate Dunn-Wright and remove the school board.

Dunn-Wright says in the petition that a judicial review of the state board’s record concerning its finding that the district failed to satisfy accreditation requirements at Dollarway High School for two consecutive years and its decision to terminate Dunn-Wright and dissolve the Dollarway board should lead the court to find in her favor.

“Bettye Dunn-Wright respectfully requests an Order of Judicial Review remanding, modifying, and/or reversing the Arkansas State Board of Education’s findings of fact, conclusions of law and order, her costs and attorneys fees,” the petition reads.

Specifically, Dunn-Wright wants the court to evaluate several points, including whether the findings of the state board and its conclusions of law that the district violated accreditation standards for the 2011-2012 school year are correct; whether Dunn-Wright’s constitutional rights were violated and whether the state board’s decision violated the Constitution or other statutory law; whether the state board’s decision exceeded its statutory authority; whether the actions taken by the state board were consistent with punishments imposed for similar conduct; and any other error that the court finds in the actions of the state board.

Dunn-Wright is being represented by attorney Jackie B. Harris of McKissic & Associates PLLC in Pine Bluff.

Background

The state board took the action June 11 after Dollarway High School failed to meet state accreditation standards for two consecutive years.

The high school was placed on probation in the 2010-2011 school year over a teacher being allowed to teach out of their area of licensure and again in the 2011-2012 school year over student transcript irregularities.

The state board also directed state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell to appoint an administrator to oversee day-to-day operations at the district.

Kimbrell announced June 12 that former Pine Bluff School District superintendent Frank Anthony would serve as superintendent of Dollarway through the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

The state board also ordered that the Arkansas Department of Education make quarterly reports to the board on Dollarway’s progress toward fixing the problems, starting in September.

“Dollarway High School assigned an individual to teach business and marketing courses without the appropriate license,” reads the findings of fact prepared by the state board for its June 11 meeting. “The individual did not meet the requirements for teaching outside of a licensed content area. This was in violation of the Arkansas Standards for Accreditation, Section 15.03.”

The state board found that the ADE notified the district of the violation and that Dollarway did not appeal the ADE finding.

“The Dollarway High School experienced transcript irregularities, including (a) one student graduating from high school without sufficient credits for graduation; and (b) credits were given for the same courses,” the findings of fact by the state board read. “This was in violation of the Arkansas Standards for Accreditation, Section 14.01. This violation was discovered on Feb. 9, 2012, during an on-site review conducted by the ADE Standards Assurance Unit.”

The state board found that the ADE notified the Dollarway district of the violation by May 1, and that although the district had the right to appeal the decision, it did not, and instead acknowledged the violation.

The state board found that the ADE notified Dunn-Wright on May 17 that due to the failure to meet accreditation standards for two consecutive years, the state board would be required to take at least one of the actions that included those taken of permanently removing the superintendent and the school board and having and administrator appointed.