Motion in school case suggests Pulaski school case solution, including new district boundaries | Arkansas Blog

Friday, July 14, 2017

Motion in school case suggests Pulaski school case solution, including new district boundaries

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 9:17 AM

click to enlarge JOHNNY KEY: Joins motion on solution to Pulaski school cases. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • JOHNNY KEY: Joins motion on solution to Pulaski school cases.
Big news this morning.

Late last night came a filing in federal court that says the state of Arkansas, the Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts and the so-called Joshua intervenors, the representatives of black families led by state Rep. John Walker are amenable to settlement of all remaining issues in county desegregation issues.

It also suggests  the parties are amenable to redrawing boundaries of the Pulaski and Little Rock school districts. No specifics are given, but the idea of one district south of the river has long been discussed. Pulaski would be left with the Maumelle and Sherwood areas. The independent North Little Rock and Jacksonville districts are not mentioned.

Lots more to come, of course.

click to enlarge PRICE MARSHALL: Hearing in is court would be delayed. - SNIPVIEW
  • PRICE MARSHALL: Hearing in is court would be delayed.
The filing came in the so-calle Doe case in which the Little Rock School District is accused of discriminating against black families in school facilities. The district has been declared "unitary," or desegregated, but the judge has said that doesn't preclude new litigation over ongoing decision-making and a trial was set to begin Tuesday. The Pulaski County School District remains under court supervision in a separate case on a a few issues from the long-running desegregation litigation, including facilities. North Little Rock has been released from court supervision.

The groundbreaking suggestion came in a motion to delay next week's trial before Judge Price Marshall. It is supported by Education Commissioner Johnny Key, acting as the Little Rock School Board during the state trusteeship that began two years ago. It is joined by Superintendent Michael Poore and the Doe plaintiffs. The meat of the request:

This motion is based in part on developments that impact both this case and the related case of LRSD v. PCSSD, No. 82-866. PCSSD and the Joshua Intervenors are open to immediate and intensive discussions to resolve all remaining unitary status issues, with the goal of doing so within sixty (60) days.

When PCSSD is declared unitary, LRSD, PCSSD, the Arkansas Department of Education, the Joshua Intervenors and the Doe Plaintiffs are open to discussions concerning boundary changes among the Pulaski County School Districts which would likely have a substantial impact on LRSD.

Counsel for PCSSD and counsel for Joshua have agreed that these discussions preliminary to a declaration of unitary status for PCSSD will not constitute a violation of any provision of the Settlement Agreement dated November 18, 2013, and approved by this Court on January 13, 2014 in case number 4:82-cv-866-DPM

Poore, Key and the Doe Plaintiffs believe that most, if not all, of the remaining issues in this case can be resolved in the context of the broader discussions concerning the future contours and governance of the school districts in Pulaski County.

WHEREFORE, for the reasons set forth above, the parties jointly request a continuance of the trial of this case of at least ninety (90) days in order to engage in the efforts described in this motion to resolve outstanding education issues affecting students throughout Pulaski County.
Creation of a new school district would presumably be a way out of state control of the Little Rock School District, a hotly controversial issue that was engendered when the Little Rock business community became unhappy about the black majority school board. The state took over the district on a narrow split state Board of Education vote because of low scores of six of 48 schools. Three schools remain below the state proficiency standard and, to date, the state Board has refused to consider giving autonomy back to the district.

The Pulaski district's willingness to participate is clear from the motion. Its attorneys signed the motion for continuance.

UPDATE: Johnny Key distributed a copy of the motion to the state Board of Education during a regularly scheduled meeting this morning, but added little additional comment and the board offered no thoughts, I'm told.

ALSO: The state Board of Education has already studied district realignment here in anticipation of a future need. It recommended the two district solution, with some small changes such as moving that part of Shanon Hills in Saline County from the Pulaski to the Bryant School District and making the North Little Rock School District boundaries coterminous with the city. It also mentioned the possibility of Sherwood and Maumeel districts. The Board unanimously adopted the report, with some added comments of concern from then-Board member Sam Ledbetter.

UPDATE: Friday afternoon, Judge Marshall granted the motion to delay the trial. He rescheduled it for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 11 and commented: "The parties, therefore, must sprint in their discussions. If those discussions produce results, the parties should file notice immediately and the Court will consider any proposed settlement at the status conference scheduled for 6 September 2017... "

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