We’ve been thinking about school consolidation for a while but haven’t addressed it. In our story about Watson Chapel Superintendent Connie Hathorn’s retirement, he said he would support such a measure. After that, our collective brains’ gears began turning faster and faster on the issue.
Others took notice, too.
In the story’s wake, the Pine Bluff branch of the NAACP is holding a community forum to discuss consolidation. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday at the UAPB Business Incubator, 615 S. Main St.
In our article, Hathorn said that consolidation “can work, but it takes the right leadership. If you do that, kids can have more opportunities.”
Hathorn went on to say, “If you have one school district with one curriculum aligned across each school, kids won’t have much of a change when transferring from school to school.”
In order to consolidate, the affected districts must file a petition with the State Board of Education that contains the signatures of a majority of the qualified electors in the district. Then, a majority of the qualified electors must vote to approve the consolidation, and the board of directors of the districts must approve a resolution to consolidate.
It’s a tall order, to be sure. And we are nowhere near that point in the conversation yet. In fact, many different sets of variables must be considered before a consolidation effort can make it off the ground.
For one, who would lead the unified district? How much would the consolidation cost, and who would pay for it?
A Pine Bluff Unified School District should feature all the schools that are currently open. The athletic teams should remain the Zebras, Wildcats and Cardinals. The main benefit would be unified leadership throughout the respective schools.
In order for our community to succeed, we feel like some major changes are needed in our local education system. While there are dozens of people who are doing great work, there are others who simply need to go. And that includes some of our area school board members.
We would like to see a great turnout at the NAACP’s event on Thursday. Ask any economic developer and they will say that having a successful school district is key to a city’s growth and prosperity. After all, who would want to move their kids and family to a city where schools aren’t that great?
Additionally, there is such great pride within our local schools that dates back decades. We need to retain that pride and make our schools the best they can be. Hard conversations about the future of our local schools need to happen, and this is a great starting point.
Please join us at the NAACP’s meeting this Thursday.