By Nicole Tracy
Lawyers John W. Walker and Omavi Shukur were on hand to give an update to the status of the lawsuit against the Arkansas State Board of Education during the recent meeting of the Mineral Springs School Board on Sept. 12.
An appeal has been filed with the Pulaski County Circuit Court over the designation given by the state Board of Education to Mineral Springs High School as being in academic distress. Both Walker and Shukur were confident that the Circuit Court would send the appeal over Mineral Springs High School’s status as an academic distress school back to the state Board of Education to reconsider the designation.
Shukur stated there were no findings of fact by the Board of Education to support the academic distress designation.
The federal case against the State Board of Education was also proceeding along smoothly, according to Shukur. He explained one of the case’s major arguments was that the state Board of Education hadn’t been collecting data on the racial makeup on the districts, and had not been reporting any data to the Legislature, to assist in the decision making that went into the Arkansas School Choice Law, which, included a racial safeguard to keep a district from becoming segregated. By not performing these duties, they set in motion the events that lead to the issues currently facing the Mineral Springs School District.
Walker also stated, “This is the first time the State Board of Education has ever had a school district really fight back.”
The trial is expected to commence in November 2017, and according to Walker, they can expect a time frame of 30 days to three to four months for an opinion from the judge in the case, and then there will be another time frame of 30 days for an appeal to any decision rendered.
Walker also stated that a team from the State Board of Education’s Academic Distress Unit will be visiting Mineral Springs on Sept. 22, and that either both he and Shukur, or Shukur alone, would be in attendance during the visit.
Principals were on hand to give reports to the board about how things were going in the schools. High School Principal Josh Kessler reported that ACT scores had improved by 42 percent, and that the teachers are sharing things that they are doing with one another, all as part of a professional learning community.
A building update was given by Mike Erwin. He reported that according to a letter by Superintendent Curtis Turner, he had been working closely with the architect and contractor for the new school, and he would be calling a special board meeting very soon. He also stated he wanted to remind everyone to go to the polls and vote “yes” on the matter during the election being held on Sept. 20.