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State Takes Control of Eastern Arkansas School District

(MARIANNA)  The Arkansas Board of Education on Monday voted to assume control of the Marianna-based Lee County School District, immediately removing Superintendent Elizabeth Johnson and the district’s School Board.

The 8-0 vote followed the Education Board’s initial decision Monday to place the Lee County district and Lee County High School on probation for violating state accreditation standards that require maintenance of accurate student records for graduation.

The board overruled the appeal by Johnson and her staff that the 718-student district not be placed on probation.

Deborah Coffman, the state Department of Education assistant commissioner for public school accountability, told the Education Board at the special meeting that the Lee County district violated state standards by failing to maintain accurate, up-to-date transcripts for its students, and that parents and students were not given timely notice of issues affecting students’ eligibility for graduation.

As for the high school, Coffman said, students expecting to graduate did not have appropriate guidance to schedule the minimum 22 course credits that are necessary to graduate.

The last day of school for seniors in the district is May 10, about 45 days away. “Without immediate intervention, 35 of the 56 seniors will not graduate on time or will graduate with an incomplete or incorrect transcript,” Coffman said.

She described the need to correct student records and ensure that affected students are enrolled in online credit recovery courses, concurrent college credit courses, and summer school courses. That’s all on top of the classes students are currently taking at school.

Until Monday, the Lee County School District was not on probation for violating state standards for operating a school or district.

“The Lee County School district over the last five years has had a lot of history with the Education Department and the board,” Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key told the Education Board.

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