The Arkansas State Board of Education requires that each school district in Arkansas provide and publish, in a newspaper with general circulation in the district before November 15 of each school year, a report to the public. (Standards for Accreditation of Arkansas Public Schools, State Board of Education, Revised Edition, January 10, 2000.) To meet the requirements of the Arkansas State Board of Education, a public meeting is held, and a Media Report is provided that is subsequently used for publication in a newspaper with general circulation. That Media Report/Annual Plan to the Public is found below.
An Open Letter to the PCSSD Community from the Superintendent, Dr. Jerry Guess
Philosophy of Education
PCSSD Strategic Plan
Home School Counseling
Preface to the Annual Plan to the Public
Last year, the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) underwent significant change as a result of 2011 takeover by the State. The District was placed in fiscal distress, after a recommendation for such by the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit, in May, 2011. On June 20, 2011, Arkansas Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell removed the seven-member PCSSD board of education. Dr. Kimbrell, acting in place of the PCSSD’s board, announced that PCSSD’s new superintendent would be Dr. Jerry Guess, who had been superintendent for the past 15 years of the Camden School District. PCSSD may remain in fiscal distress and operate with Dr. Kimbrell as its board of education for up to two years.
An Open Letter to the PCSSD Community from the Superintendent, Dr. Jerry Guess
To our patrons throughout the community, I want to welcome you to the Pulaski County Special School District. We are pleased to bring you our 2011-2012 report on education plans and programs. The PCSSD continues to be committed to the vision and philosophy that students are at the center of all decisions and all work focuses on their learning.
We are pleased to report PCSSD continues to make great progress in student achievement and improved facilities. Our focus on educational excellence and on-going opportunities to advance a results-oriented learning experience for all our students remains unmatched. As schools opened for the 2012-13 school year, the District employed 1,311 teachers, 1,345 support staff and 140 certified administrators, serving just over 18,000 students. Student enrollment is up again this year, and we believe we have rounded the corner from several years of enrollment decline. We also saw facilities improvements and renovations across our District.
I am honored to serve as PCSSD’s superintendent. When Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell asked me to come to Little Rock and lead teaching and learning in the District, I had mixed emotions. Camden Fairview is my home, and I had served as superintendent there for the previous 15 years.
What I have found is, while vastly different in size, the basics in both districts are the same – guaranteeing that students have clean, quality classrooms where teachers have the tools to teach in an environment that is best for student achievement. And, that’s just what we plan to accomplish. We will continue to press forward and will make your students our focus.
As you may know, the Commissioner is acting in the role of the school board as the state oversees the District. However, to the parents, patrons and students this changes very little at your school. Your teachers, coaches, counselors and principals will still be the educators you turn to, ensuring you receive the quality education you deserve. I, along with the District leadership team, am here to support them – and you this year.
I believe solid public schools are the foundation of this country’s future, and I look forward to making this public school district the best it can be. If my office can help you in any way, please feel free to call 501-234-2001. I offer my best wishes for a safe and successful 2012-2013 school year.
Jerry Guess, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Philosophy of Education
The District’s philosophy of education goals and objectives was adopted by a Board in 1981 (see Board Policy Manual, Code ADA). Since that time, the District’s goals and objectives have been revised twice, with the most recent Manual Adoption occurring February 8, 2000. Past Boards have established goals to guide the administration in developing specific, systemwide objectives to provide standards for a quality educational program. These goals and objectives are ongoing, and the District is in the continual process of implementing its stated goals and objectives based on its philosophy of education.
PCSSD Strategic Plan
Shared Vision Statement: (Adopted July 9, 2008)
Pulaski County Special School District is committed to creating a nationally recognized school district which assures that all students achieve at their maximum potential through the collaborative, supportive and continuous efforts of all stakeholders (teachers, administrators, support staff, families, students, communities, and businesses).
Shared Core Belief Statement: (Adopted July 9, 2008)
When it comes to student learning in Pulaski County Special School District, we the stakeholders (teachers, administrators, support staff, families, students, communities, and businesses) believe that for all students to succeed:
- They must have a safe physical, social and emotional learning environment.
- All stakeholders of education must be actively involved.
- Curriculum, instruction and learning opportunities must be diverse, engaging and developmentally appropriate.
- Schools should be communities of learning where all teachers and staff do whatever it takes to assure all students learn.
- All decisions must be data driven.
All schools in the PCSSD are accredited by the Arkansas State Board of Education. Every PCSSD school strives to meet standards by analysis of data to include Formative Evaluation Process for School Improvement (FEPSI) and state mandated testing (criterion-reference tests and norm-reference tests) in order to address areas of concern through its school action plan.
All PCSSD schools plan for school improvement using the Arkansas Consolidated School Improvement Plan (ACSIP) process with guidance from the District and the Arkansas Department of Education.
On June 11, 2012, Robinson High School was placed on year-one probationary status by the ADE on due to errors on student transcripts. Corrective actions were taken, and all transcripts for the 2012 graduating class were reviewed by the counselors and corrections were made. On October 4, 2012, the ADE made a follow-up site visit to Robinson High, and the school was recently cleared of this finding due to its actions.
PCSSD facilities average 42 years old, the oldest built in 1952. Due to a large number of well-aged buildings and limited funds, the District maintains a significant backlog of deferred maintenance. The reduction of infrastructure through one school closure and one consolidation last year helped decrease the maintenance backlog but more work needs to be done to improve the facilities. As such, this year the District increased funding through a one-time investment of $7.5 Million for facility projects to improve many desperately needed repairs.
Although the District improved roofs, parking lots and other infrastructure through this one-time investment, many facilities require construction projects in order to comply with current space and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
Due to age and historical under investment, the facility systems are experiencing an accelerated failure rate. This, along with the ADA accessibility requirement, dictates a significant increase in annual investment to maintain the facilities in a safe and efficient manner. Increased investment for facility sustainment and, in some cases, new construction is the only answer to improving the District’s facilities.
Desegregation Plan 2000/Education Plan
On March 21, 2000, the Federal Court approved the District’s revised desegregation plan, Plan 2000. The District continues to operate under this plan. Plan 2000 includes programs and strategies that directly address Education Plan Goals. These goals focus on student achievement, attendance, reduction and disparity of student discipline, and academic remediation/enrichment. The Education Plan incorporates a total-school process, which engages each school in an annual self-study with the objective of improving student achievement and discipline. All District schools participate in this process.
Home School Counseling
The Home School Counseling Program (a part of the District’s Plan 2000) consists of 11 counselors/consultants (three home-school counselors at the secondary level and eight home-school consultants at the elementary level). Creating a better school-to-home relationship is a major goal. Counselors/consultants identify students each semester based on low grades, test scores, poor attendance and behavior. They work with these students individually at school and make visits in the home with their parents. Home school counselors/consultants are instrumental in assisting families with basic needs including food, uniforms, shelter, eyeglasses, school supplies, and transportation.
The counselors/consultants also provide parent workshops; basic skills tutoring for students and community outreach, and serve as a liaison to outside referral agencies. When students come to school ready to learn they perform better in the classroom. Similar activities and efforts are underway or planned for the 2012-2013 school year.
Professional Development is committed to providing ongoing meaningful staff development to support teaching and learning. The Professional Development department in conjunction with the Curriculum department is committed to providing opportunities for certified teachers to engage in 60 hours of professional learning that will enhance their pedagogy. This professional development is offered during and after school. Instructional Facilitators are provided training of trainers to assure that teachers are receiving job-embedded professional development in current research-based practices. In addition, Professional Development provides six hours of technology; three hours of parental involvement for administrators and two hours for teachers, and two hours of Arkansas History for elementary teachers. Also provided is a required TESA training for new teachers. The emphasis of all professional development is to provide certified staff with the necessary tools to raise student achievement.
The vision of the Learning Services Team is to foster exceptional and comprehensive opportunities for its diverse learning community by providing relevant resources and stimulating professional development that ensures all students are college and career ready. Learning Services is a team of professionals from a variety of education fields who collaborate to help all students, staff, and parents access the resources necessary to be successful. Some of the major areas Learning Services provides help are in the common core state standards curriculum; the Desegregation Plan 2000 and Formative Evaluation Process for School Improvement (FEPSI); Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment, and Accountability Program (ACTAAP); Arkansas Consolidated School Improvement Plan (ACSIP); and professional development.
Learning Services helps schools analyze student data from the various sources to identify the needs of individual students and subpopulations that are underachieving. Learning Services assists schools with developing interventions based on research-based, best practice strategies that target at-risk and ethnic minority students. Our focus this year is math interventions at all grade levels.
PCSSD has 23 elementary schools and one Pre-K Center. Sixteen of our elementary schools also serve Pre-K students. Arnold Drive is one of 19 schools in Arkansas to be recognized as an Exemplary School. Five of the elementary schools in PCSSD have received an Achieving status according to the 2012 ESEA Accountability report. Both Arnold Drive and Clinton Elementary have been recognized as Title I national award winning Blue Ribbon Schools. All elementary schools have developed ACSIP plans to focus on raising student achievement. For school improvement, each elementary school analyzes data and then selects strategies to meet the needs of their unique student population. This process is ongoing throughout the school year. Harris Elementary school is implementing the Arkansas Leadership Academy School Support Model to assist with the school improvement process.
Common Core State Standards have been implemented at all elementary schools. Accelerated Reader, Early Literacy Learning in Arkansas (ELLA), and Effective Literacy are at various stages of implementation in all schools. Mathematics instruction is supplemented with initiatives to increase higher-order thinking skills and writing. Additionally, teachers and math instructional facilitators are given the opportunity to train in state supported professional development to include Cognitively Guided Instruction, and Math Links. All elementary schools will continue an emphasis on writing across the curriculum. Schools employ facilitators in literacy and/or math to provide job-embedded coaching for the teachers in research-based strategies to improve learning. Elementary schools are using formative, interim, and summative assessments as a tool to guide teaching and learning.
There are 12 secondary schools and one alternative school in the District. All secondary schools have developed school improvement plans to monitor and improve student achievement through Desegregation Plan 2000 and the Formative Evaluation Process for School Improvement (FEPSI) and Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (ACSIP) processes. In addition, secondary schools are reviewed and accredited by to the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.
The six middle schools are configured in grades six through eight, and all secondary schools provide rigorous teaching and learning experiences for all students through challenging curricula aligned with state standards and the College Board. In order to better prepare students for college and career readiness, secondary schools are participating in the Arkansas Leadership Academy School Support Model as well as the research-based Literacy Design Collaborative and Mathematics Design Collaborative. The Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Lab program, which offers hands-on, project-based learning, has been expanded at the secondary level.
All secondary schools have instructional facilitators who provide support for teaching and learning in every classroom. The effectiveness of instructional delivery and activities designed to support teaching and learning are assessed through a variety of measures including formative, interim, and summative assessments. In addition to the collection and analysis of data from formative assessments, each school collects and analyzes data from The Learning Institute (TLI) and state benchmark and End-of-Course assessments to determine student levels of mastery and the need for additional assistance.
Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre AP) and Advanced Placement (AP) offerings continue to be expanded throughout the secondary curriculum. Students also have the opportunity to meet course requirements through alternative avenues, such as the Learning Academy and Cyber Academy.
National School Lunch Act
The District receives funds through the National School Lunch Act based on the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch. At present, 12 secondary schools and four elementary schools receive NSLA funds. NSLA money is used to fund math and literacy instructional specialists in the schools. Additional services are provided through alternative learning, interpreters, and professional development in identified areas including research-based intervention strategies.
The Title I program ensures all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficient on state academic achievement standards and assessments. Title I funds are used to improve teaching and learning to enable children to reach this goal. Federal Title I funds for school improvement are assigned to elementary schools in the PCSSD based on the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch at each site. School communities establish a school improvement committee composed of administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and community representatives.
Research-based school-wide programs are chosen and implemented at the school using Title I funds to improve instruction and student achievement. Title I money is used to fund math and literacy facilitators for Title I schools. Parent/student/teacher compacts are designed at each Title I school to support the student achievement initiatives. At present, 19 elementary schools in PCSSD receive Title I funds.
Title II A funds are used to fund personnel to provide professional development to maintain highly qualified teachers and administrators. Title III, Limited English Proficient (LEP), funds are designed for local educational agencies (LEAs) that enroll one or more LEP students and must be of sufficient size and scope to allow such entities to carry out high quality language instruction educational programs for LEP children.
While the PCSSD has faced a number of financial challenges in recent years, it has never lost sight of its mission to ensure academic excellence for the roughly 18,000 student population. The administration and staff have worked diligently with the State Board of Education and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to monitor revenues and expenditures to ensure top-quality education is provided in the most cost-effective manner.
During the 2011-2012 school year, PCSSD made substantial progress implementing its fiscal distress improvement plan. Business policies and procedures were strengthened and adherence was closely monitored in order to properly address and correct prior year audit findings and recommendations. Budget controls were intensified, and much time and effort was spent planning and implementing cost-cutting strategies that would build the district’s legal fund balance to an appropriate level; and also allow for the potential loss of state desegregation funding of approximately $20M per year. The district’s reduction in force policy was implemented for the 2012-2013 school year and salaries and benefits were reduced. Cost savings totaling $13M per year will be fully achieved over the next three years and the legal fund balance is expected to grow from $4M at June 30, 2011, to $22M at June 30, 2015.
One of the district’s primary financial challenges is to provide adequate funding to properly maintain and improve its 3.6M square feet of buildings. The district recently committed $7.5M of Building Fund balance to district-wide improvements of academic facilities. This was approximately half of the Building Fund, which is non-recurring revenue. Once these funds are depleted, the district’s Operating Fund will be the only source available for building maintenance and improvements. Without new revenue, increasing the amount spent on facilities can only come at the expense of other programs. At some point, it will likely be necessary to ask district taxpayers to approve a higher tax rate if PCSSD is to compete favorably with surrounding districts, which have substantially higher tax rates.
Information Technology (IT)
The mission of the Office of Information Technology is to enable the effective use of 21st century technology in support of the district. Since 2010-11 school year IT has focused on designing an enterprise infrastructure to support some of the following initiatives: online lesson plans for teachers using interactive whiteboards, mobile devices, a new student information system (eSchoolPLUS), a new financial system (eFinance), replace legacy phone systems with VoIP (voice over internet protocol), upgrade servers from Novell to Microsoft, and implement Microsoft’s cloud based email (Outlook). In 2012-13 school year, bandwidth will be upgraded in many PCSSD schools providing faster internet connections and enhanced services that will improve the student and staff online experience. The increased bandwidth is the first in the state to be implemented through the Arkansas Department of Information Systems for K-12. This major initiative is the foundation for building a scalable and sustainable infrastructure to support teaching and learning in the 21st Century.
The district refreshed approximately 4,500 computers in 2011-12. Of the nearly 10,000 computers in the district, another 5,000 computers will be at the end of their useful life by the close of the 2013-14 school year. The annual IT millage budget of $2.49 million will not adequately sustain nor provide support for the district’s current technology needs. Before making future decisions about technology, a thorough inventory and assessment will be conducted with a focus on industry standards and best practices in the following areas: computing, wireless network, data center, power, cooling, virtualization, and software. This analysis and assessment will be shared with the staff and community because a significant investment will be required to strategically implement a technology roadmap in support of the District’s mission.
IT is grateful to serve the students and staff of PCSSD. To this end, IT will continue to provide quality customer support and implement cost effective solutions that improve organizational and operational effectiveness.
The communications department is responsible for overseeing the advertising budget for the District, which includes targeted efforts to recruit and retain students through the use of traditional media in publications including Little Rock Family, Saavy Kids, Kids’ Directory and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, as well as materials targeted to incoming families, including Chamber of Commerce, economic development and real estate-related publications. The District also uses social media, with nearly 7,000 facebook fans that regularly enjoy the posting of good news and events happening in the District. Meetings and other important activities are also communicated via the PCSSD twitter stream. The response to the District’s social media efforts from patrons has been overwhelmingly positive.
The department is the liaison with the local media, coordinating interviews with District leadership or providing a spokesperson related to issues of interest to the public. The department regularly disseminates press releases, media advisories and social media announcements publicizing positive news stories, oversees an annual calendar of events and coordinating the announcement of inclement weather plans to the community.
In August, 2011, the department and its in-house webmaster launched a redesigned, up-to-the-minute website that can be found at www.pcssd.org. Since its launch, the site has grown to include nearly 700 pages, 365 news articles, and has been viewed 2.15 million times.
In 2012, the hard work of the PCSSD Communications Department was recognized by the National School Public Relations Association’s Publications and Electronic Media Awards. The department was proud to receive a Merit Award in the Branding and Imaging category and an Honorable Mention in the Social Media category.
School Board Members Service Hours
Serving board members are required to receive six (6) hours of training during each calendar year of their continuing service. When board members are newly elected, or return to the board after a break in service, they must receive nine (9) hours of training by December 31 of the year following their election. They are required to receive six (6) hours each calendar year thereafter. In the 2011 report to the public, it was reported that all continuing PCSSD School Board members had met the required state hours of training for 2010, and two board members were newly elected in 2010. The Board was dismissed June 20, 2011 when the state took control of the District, and a School Board has not been in place since that date. As a result, board members hours are not reported for the calendar year ending in 2011.
For More Information
For more information or for a copy of the district’s 2011-2012 Annual Report, please contact the Pulaski County Special School District, Executive Director of Educational Accountability, 925 East Dixon Road, Little Rock, Arkansas 72206 (or phone 501.234.2010).