Board OKs merger of two districts, removes district from fiscal distress


LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Education on Monday approved the voluntary annexation of the Bradley School District to the Emerson-Taylor School District in southwestern Arkansas and removed the Drew Central School District in southeastern Arkansas from fiscal-distress status.

Bradley Superintendent Oscar Moore told the board the district has a student enrollment of 357 and likely would be forced to merge with another district in a few years anyway. Under Arkansas law, if a public school district’s enrollment drops below 350 for two consecutive years it must be merged with another district.

The Bradley School Board has voted to support annexation, Moore said.

Gary Hines, superintendent of the Emerson-Taylor district, said that district’s board also has voted to support annexation.

The Bradley district is in southern Lafayette County. The Emerson-Taylor district is in the southern part of neighboring Columbia County.

The Lafayette County School District opposed the request. Lafayette Superintendent Mark Keith told the board that annexation with Lafayette, in the northern part of the county, ought to be considered.

The board voted to remove the Drew Central School District from fiscal-distress status after state Department of Education officials said the district has corrected the issues that led to it receiving that classification for the 2012-13 school year.

The board voted to continue fiscal-distress status for the Helena-West Helena District, which has been on that status since September 2010 and was taken over by the state in June 2011.

The board also continued fiscal-distress status for the Pulaski County Special School District, which was placed on that status in May 2011 and was taken over by the state a month later.

Both districts have made progress, but neither has resolved all of the issues that led to fiscal distress, education officials said.