(Editors Note: The following is a press release from Ryan Watley, the CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff)
Go Forward Pine Bluff (GFPB) is now prepared to fulfill its commitment to facilitate a study
regarding the consolidation of the schools in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. GFPB has done its due
diligence since the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
sponsored the community school consolidation discussion in June of 2018. Our organization
needed to understand the impact of engaging in such a process and ensure that the approach
does not disrupt the fabric of the entire GFPB plan. GFPB has spent significant time learning
from past community examples, implementing the current education initiatives, and realizing we
must prepare for future considerations beyond our control.
GFPB currently has an education alliance composed of executive-level representatives from each
educational institution in Pine Bluff. The focus of the Education Alliance is to implement the
plan promised to the citizens (L.E.A.P), and the charter by which they operate precludes the
membership from addressing consolidation as an action item. Overall, it would be difficult for the
superintendents that serve on this alliance to remain objective.
As such, strategically, we have assembled seven additional education stakeholders whose role is to
analyze data regarding the feasibility of annexing/consolidating the three school districts. The
task of the stakeholders further involves evaluating intended and unintended consequences on
subtopics that will lead to an overall conclusion of the study. Midway reports and the final report
will be distributed to the community at large. The committee will also provide reports to the
Arkansas Department of Education, which has the responsibility of public schools.
The consolidation of schools is outside the scope of the GFPB implementation plan. We must
emphasize our priority is to fulfill the 26 initiatives while assisting the community in being
prepared in the event the state department of education decides consolidation is necessary.
GFPB’s role is to facilitate the professional consultation to the Pine Bluff community on this
The following represents the consolidation study committee members:
Chair, Diane Gilleland - Professor of finance, Philanthropist and former director at Arkansas
Department of Higher Education
Vice-Chair, Calvin Johnson – Retired Educator, Dean of UAPB education, Interim Chancellor
at UAPB, Arkansas Representative
Joni Alexander, current Director of Communty Outreach at Fordyce Bank & Trust, Pine Bluff
City Council member and former educator.
Glen Barnes, Pastor of Pine Hill Baptist Church; Leader in the Juvenile Justice Center
Wanda V. Neal, President of the Pine Bluff NAACP
Mattie Collins, retired educator and director of Ivy Center for Education
Alan Frazier, Watson Chapel School Board President, financial estate planner
Spencer Robinson, former school district attorney
Fletcher Education Solutions, LLC
Trina L. Fletcher, Ph.D., Co-founder holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial
Technology from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a master’s degree in
Operations Management from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a second
master’s degree in Engineering Management from George Washington University and a
Doctorate degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She currently serves
as an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Florida International University
where she focuses on economics and finances in engineering and equity and inclusion
within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Prior to FIU, Dr.
Fletcher worked with Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Johnson and Johnson, and served as
a Director of Pre-college Programs for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
where she planned and managed an annual $2 million budget that provided free access to
STEM education for over 10,000 minority students across 16 major U.S. cities. Dr.
Fletcher is an avid Historically Black College and University (HBCU) researcher,
currently holds a $360,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to research the
best practices in STEM at HBCUs and has authored several papers on women and girls
of color in STEM.
Tina L. Fletcher, Ed.M., Co-founder holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science
and African American Studies from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree in
Secondary Teacher Education from Harvard University. She is a second-year education
policy PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania where she studies minority male
teachers, teacher certification exams, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Tina has
completed internships with the Southern Education Foundation, the Congressional Black
Caucus, and Office of the First Lady Michelle Obama. Her work experience includes
serving as a high school social studies teacher in Washington, DC where she was named
the 2010 Teacher of the Year. Tina has also served as a fundraiser for President Barack
Obama and the Memphis Grizzlies, a community engagement manager for DC Public
Schools, and as a community engagement director for the city of Washington, DC.
Strategy: The committee in partnership with the lead consultant and UAPB Department of
Education, will access information from the Arkansas Department of Education along with
resources to be identified. Thereafter, the committee will evaluate the benefit, challenges,
quantitative and qualitative cost associated with a consolidated school district. It is our belief this
approach will allow the community to receive an approach that is empathetic yet focused on the
evidence presented. The study will be housed at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Department of Education. Many student organizations, retired and current teacher groups,
parent associations and Education Foundations will be interviewed as a to understand if all data
presented is reflective of the daily activities within the district. While we are not able to cover
every issue possible, the goal is to conclude with a document that lends a solution to our
Case indicators and Factors Driving the Consolidation Study:
Enrollment Trends (state, regional, county, district, and school-level)
Funding (assets and liabilities)
Facilities Assessment (capacity, condition, current utility usage, inventory, safety)
Academic Opportunity (curriculum expansion, out-of-school time programming)
Employment (shortages, opportunities for growth, potential areas of loss)
ESSA index parameters scores
Timeline: 8 to 12 months
It is ideal that the committee completes phases of the session and have community meetings
around what has been discovered. It is important that the community is aware of the discussion
taking place and have a chance to provide input prior to the completion of the study.
Periodic findings of the feasibility study will be released to the public via community meetings.
The meetings are to communicate and obtain feedback to ensure a large percentage of the
challenges associated with each section of the study have been addressed.
As CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff, I extend my appreciation to the committee members for their
willingness to address such a dynamic question in our community. This is an exciting time in our
community and I encourage all citizens to be involved in the process of change.