(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


topic.


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


Lead Consultants


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


educational landscape.


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.