Recently, the Helena-West Helena School District implemented a policy that will allow students at private schools and students that are home schooled to sign up to take selected courses at Central High School to fill in their educational needs and the district will be able to receive 1/6 of the state funding for every course that those students take from HWHSD.  Those students can also participate in the extracurricular activities at CHS.
The district believes this is the right thing to do for our community and provides another opportunity for us to showcase our school and its well-rounded experience in the hope that those that might choose to take one of our courses will have a positive experience and choose to fully enroll and become a part of Cougar Country.  CHS does a great job and this provides an avenue to reach out to the entire community and tell our positive story.
It’s also a great deal for those choosing other educational options.  Central High School offers more in-person Advanced Placement courses that any school in the Tri-County area.  We have energetic teachers in these classrooms receiving some of the best training and support available through our participation in the AAIMS program led by formed Education Commissioner Ken James.  The private schools in the area and individual families that home school don’t have this rich array of offerings or access to the resources to support instruction that we have at Central High School.  This allows them to serve their student population better without forcing a choice between one or the other because the students can take anywhere from one course to signing up for an entire day.  For the first time, the district gets a pro rata share of state funding for students doing this which makes it a win-win for everyone.
For the home school student that doesn’t have access to any organized, competitive extra curricular activities, there is now an opportunity to have the advantages families seek to have through education controlled at home supplemented by those things our public schools do best that fill gaps in what families that choose to home school are able to provide.  For Central, it increases participation and could mean a better Quiz Bowl team, band, choir, etc.
I will admit this was a controversial change and one that I had to think long and hard about.  I have been and continue to be a die-hard supporter of public education and believe that we must have strong public education in order for our community to thrive.  Opponents of this argue that if individuals want to share in the greatness of what public schools offer then they should have to enroll full-time.  I have shared that view for many years.  However, it hasn’t worked as school choice has expanded and increasing numbers of families have chosen other options, exacerbating the effects of our area’s population decline by increasing the rate of HWHSD’s enrollment decline.  Just as we did with leading in the revolutionary waiver approach under Act 1240, the time has come to try a new approach to student recruitment, telling our story, and serving our community.  Since the law has changed to allow us to get some state funding for this approach, it only made sense.  After all, what better way to show a family the quality of our work than by allowing their children into our classrooms to interact with our teachers and students?  I believe when families take advantage of this option that they will see the great things at Central High School every day and want to be a part of more of it.
More information can be obtained about these opportunities by contacting Interim Superintendent Linda English at the Administration office.
I want to close today by offering a few words on the outcome of the search for a Superintendent of Schools to replace John Hoy resulting in Mrs. English’s appointment as Interim Superintendent.  It has been common knowledge that I applied for the job and was qualified based on the new rules under Act 1240 just as our Commissioner of Education, Johnny Key, was qualified to be appointed to the position to lead education in our state after a similar alteration of another state statute.  Johnny Key has done a good job, and I believed when I applied that I could do a lot of good for HWHSD in that very important position after six years of steady progress under the leadership of Suzann McCommon and John Hoy.  People all over this community have supported our efforts to make HWHSD and so many of you have been gracious enough to support me.  For the past week, I have fielded calls from so many of you concerned about me and upset about the Board not taking the opportunity to appoint me into that position.  I thank all of you who have supported me and the schools.  I want to encourage you to continue to support HWHSD because this application for this job and current service on the School Board was never about me.  The concern for me is touching but I am reminded of the words of Bum Phillips when he was fired as the Head Football Coach of the Houston Oilers.  He said, “Don't act so sad. I didn't die. I just got fired.”  In this case, I just wasn’t given the chance to be hired.  Let’s keep working to make sure great things happen every day in HWHSD and let’s support Mrs. English for as long as she serves as the Interim Superintendent.  I have known her for many years and she is a good person.  We have worked well on many issues to benefit our students over the years.  The stakes are too high and the issues are too important for the future of our students and for the future of our community for us to do otherwise.  So to those of you that wanted me, I ask you to keep working hard for the cause of a great HWHSD.  We take this one day at a time and we work hard to make sure great things happen every day in HWHSD and that we fulfill the district’s mission to make sure our students are fully prepared for life as responsible, productive, and caring citizens.