In an effort to bring a sense of transparency to the day-to-day operation of the Helena-West Helena School District, the state Board of Education, back in September, named a community advisory board for the district. However, the local school district remains in fiscal distress and under state control.
Earlier in 2013, the Arkansas Legislature approved Act 600, which extends the length of time that a school district can remain in fiscal distress from two years to five years. Act 600 also permits State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell, with the approval of the state Board of Education, to appoint a community advisory board for districts that have shown progress in ending fiscal distress but has not quite solved all of its financial problems.
The advisory board is required to meet monthly and discuss progress in solving the district's financial woes. The board is also required to meet with patrons in the district, conduct student disciplinary hearings, make recommendations and otherwise support the school district.
Six of the seven board positions have been appointed and they include: Lynn Boone, Dr. Steven Murray, Doug Friedlander, Bettye Hendrix, Andrew Bagley and Marvin Jarrett. The appointees will serve at the pleasure of Commissioner Kimbrell. When the districts return to local control, an elected school board will replace the advisory board.
None of the advisory board appointees previously served on the district's school boards. The state dissolved the local school board and replaced then superintendent Willie C. Williams.