Facilities Division gets new director

Charles Stein was named director of the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation by the three-member Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission in a specially-called meeting at the Arkansas Department of Education on Thursday. Stein, who has served as the division’s assistant director since August 2005, replaces Doug Eaton, director of the division since December 2005. Eaton is retiring from the division effective July 30.

“We feel like Dr. Stein has the experience, knowledge and relationships with people in the school districts to take the division to the next level,” said Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell, who also serves as chairman of the facilities commission. The other commissioners are Richard Weiss, director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, and Mac Dodson, president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority. “We saw no point in delaying when we had the right person who could make that happen immediately.”

Before coming to the division, Stein worked for 34 years with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District, serving as deputy chief of both the operations division and the engineering and construction division during his tenure there. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Arkansas, a master’s degree in water resources planning from Colorado State University and a doctorate in engineering management from Southern Methodist University.

Stein is married to Mary Kathryn Stein. They have five children and four grandchildren.

“The five years I’ve worked for the division have flown by as the state developed its facilities program,” Stein said after the vote to hire him. “Much has been accomplished during that time, and I look forward to working with and supporting superintendents and their facilities personnel as we continue to build and improve school buildings for our students.”
Posted by JJT.

School highlighted in local paper for focus on achievement

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette showcased the efforts of Oakdale Middle School in Rogers to increase students’ performance on math, science and literacy tests using 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant funds. Student teachers from the University of Arkansas will teach literacy in an after-school program targeted to students scoring at the basic and below basic levels on the state’s Benchmark exams. Robotics and other science projects will be offered as well.
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778 Arkansas schools fully accredited

The Arkansas State Board of Education approved the following status report regarding the accreditation of Arkansas public schools for the 2009-2010 school year. Schools must meet minimum standards of offerings and performance to ensure that all children in the state have access to an adequate education. Schools placed in cited or probationary status must show that they have corrected deficiencies. When a school has been placed on the probationary list for two years in a row, it faces action by the State Board.

Total Districts 244 + 18 Open Enrollment Charters
Total Schools 1068
Schools Fully Accredited 778
Schools Accredited-Cited 227
Schools Accredited-Probationary 63
Status Appeals 1
Districts Accredited-Cited 11
Districts Accredited-Probationary 4
One school, Springdale’s Har-Ber High School, plans to appeal its classification.

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Hearing on Hope Academy results in revocation of charter

The State Board of Education revoked the charter of Hope Academy after hearing a report concerning the financial status of Hope Academy Charter School in Pine Bluff. Last month, the department presented a report showing that as of May 31, the unrestricted operating fund of the school had a negative balance of more than $40,000, prompting the concern of the department.
ADE assistant commissioner Bill Goff today presented the State Board with a spreadsheet showing balances as of June 30 for the school showing a negative balance of $4,093 overall. Schools are not allowed to spend more than they take in, with a few rare exceptions
The school submitted a budget for the 2010-2011 school year based on 125 students at next year’s foundation funding amount of $6,023. However, foundation funding is based on last year’s average daily membership, which was 121, meaning the school will have to enroll additional students and receive growth funding to make that budget goal. In addition, the school had to add a food services program at $75,000 because the school’s participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school lunch program was terminated. The position of principal has been reduced in next years budget, as well as one full-time equivalent teacher. The lease has been renegotiated for an $18,000 savings. All three cuts total about $100,000 reduction from last year’s budget. . . the approved the application for Hope Academy on February 12, 2007. The current five-year charter contract for the school goes through June 30, 2012.
The school reported that test scores were up 10 to 25 percent in literacy across the grades and 14 percent in 8th grade math and the same in other areas. Board members expressed concern that the charter for the school promised 20 percent gains in test scores each year.
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KIPP request to amend charter approved.

Scott Shirey of KIPP Delta Public Schools came before the State Board of Education to request amendments to their current charter.
Included in the requested changes were:
* a waiver from monthly board meetings because board covers both Blytheville and Helena-West Helena courses,
* the flexibility to dismiss at 4 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. because of children getting home late and now have more robust after-school programs
* the flexibility to teach algebra as early as the sixth grade, which would allow more time for AP classes when students are in high school.
* the flexibility to teach physical science in eighth grade, again to allow more time for AP classes in high school.
* the flexibility to eliminate Ds from the grading scale so children will work hard enough to succeed in college and 60 percent mastery of a subject does not prepare for college. He said the school will offer tutoring and other supports so that an increase in dropouts should not occur.
Other items, Shirey said, are to clean up or clarify items in the charter and to remove a few waivers from the original charter — evaluation of teacher contracts and adherence to the state salary scale. The latter is not needed as they pay above the state’s minimum salary scale and plan to continue to do so.
The State Board approved the amendments with a unanimous vote.
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State Board adopts Common Core State Standards

The Arkansas State Board of Education today adopted the Common Core State Standards, a voluntary, state-led set of learning standards in mathematics and English languate arts that were created by an initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.
Arkansas is the 24th state in the nation to formally adopt the Common Core State Standards.
The standards are designed to prepare students to be ready for college or career upon graduation from high school by presenting a logical progression of lessons throughout the grades that are benchmarked internationally and that are deemed to be higher, fewer and deeper than those found in many states. The idea, as Dr. Gayle Potter informed the State Board, is to allow teachers to teach to deeper levels of understanding for permanent learning.
The standards will not be taught in the classroom this year. A transition plan to incorporate them into Arkansas classrooms, complete with curriculum development, professional development, and a new set of assessments is being developed now.
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State Board considers budgets for two fiscal years

The fiscal year ending in June 2010 was a difficult year, with three revisions lowering the state’s general education budget, ADE finance employee Ted Moore reported to the State Board of Education. Even so, the final close out of the budget includes a $35.5 million balance that will roll over to the next fiscal year due to the final few months of the state’s budget being ending above forecast. These reductions totaled $97.9 million in general revenue and $3.9 million in Educational Excellence Trust Funds. Fortunately, the Public School Fund entered the fiscal year with a $50.1 million unrestricted fund balance. In addition to utilizing the carry forward fund balance, the Governor and the General Assembly also allowed the Department to utilize its transfer authority to off-set the final revenue reduction of $16.9 million with a transfer of unobligated funds from the Public School Facilities Partnership Fund. These additional funds limited total program reductions to $35.1 million.Over the past year, the department has been able to use previous fund balances as well as the transfer to offset many of the cuts, although financing for a few programs that do not directly affect students and teachers were reduced at the time of the cuts.
The State Board also considered the budget the agency submitted in June for fiscal year 2011. As required by Arkansas Code, state agencies are required to submit a balanced budget to the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). The budget must not exceed the revenue forecast made by the Chief Fiscal Officer of the State.
The budget was prepared before the $35.5 million carryover was assured, so the budget does not reflect that and will possibly be amended.
State Foundation Aid Funding and various programs tied to educational adequacy were fully budgeted based on the formulas set out by statute. Educational adequacy comprises 84% of the total Public School Fund budget.
Posted by JJT.