Helena-West Helena seeks to regain control of school district | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 9, 2015

Helena-West Helena seeks to regain control of school district

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2015 at 7:32 AM

Andrew Bagley, president of the advisory board appointed for Helena-West Helena schools after they were taken over by the state for financial problems, says the district has regain its financial footing, has a substantial fund balance and should be allowed to resume governance.

The district will be before the state Board of Education Thursday.

While fiscal issues are the primary concern in Helena, Bagley is like other school people in the state — fearful of what could be in store if Sen. Bruce Cozart passes legislation that will give the state broad power to take over school districts and outsource their operation to private companies. The KIPP charter school organization operates in Helena-West Helena now and, while under state control, the formerly autonomous districts has sold district buildings — over the advisory board's objections — to KIPP for token sums.

Bagley's letter to the Board:


Dear Members of the State Board of Education:

As the President of the Helena-West Helena School District Advisory School Board, I am writing to you today to formally request that you return local governance to our school district after four years of state control when you consider the fate of our schools at your meeting on Thursday.

The Helena-West Helena School District was taken over after being classified in fiscal distress. Since that time, our unrestricted fund balances have more than doubled and stood at over $7,000,000 as of January 31. The Helena-West Helena School District is a financially healthy school district.

While we have been under the supervision of the state, the district has implemented cost reduction measures that insure financial stability moving forward. We have reduced the number of campuses in operation and eliminated more than 100 positions so that our expenses will be in line with our ongoing revenue. The district continues to look for additional cost-savings regularly and is very sensitive to the importance of sound financial management.

Our school district has greatly reduced its audit difficulties and has made progress to deal with the items cited in the most recent audit which was released early by the Division of Legislative Audit.

Additionally, it is my opinion that the leadership provided locally through the Advisory School Board combined with the painful trauma associated with the stigma state takeover brought to our community has equipped our community to be ready for and deserving of another chance to locally operate our schools.

Finally, if we had local control today, we would not be eligible for classification as being fiscally distressed because the relevant statutes require that two of the qualifying circumstances be in place simultaneously. As of today, the only item that remains is the greatly reduced audit findings because our fund balances are as substantial for a district our size as any other similarly-sized school district in this state.

With that in mind, I implore you to return local control to our district. We have made great progress during the last four years, and our community has learned many lessons from this experience. We are confident of a bright future for our district and its students. Four years is plenty of time to serve as a consequence for our past sins. Please allow our district to resume governing itself with a locally elected board of directors.

Thanks to each of you for the sacrifices you make to serve the students of Arkansas and for considering the information in this correspondence.

Respectfully,

Andrew Bagley
President, Helena-West Helena School District Advisory School Board

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