- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The state’s top education official has approved a plan that cuts virtually all certified and support employees in 10 Jacksonville-area schools from the Pulaski County Special district.

The move comes as the district faces the forthcoming detachment of the Jacksonville and North Pulaski School District. State officials approved carving the new district out of the Pulaski County Special School District after residents in the area overwhelmingly voted in favor of it.

The plan leaves staff, who will be removed from the older district’s employment payrolls after the 2015-16 school year, with no guarantees that they’ll be hired by the new district, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1JofbeO ) reported.

Phyllis Stewart, chief of staff for the Jacksonville district, said Wednesday that they’re not obligated to hire those employees. And she said the new district, which is expected to enroll around 4,000 students, won’t likely be able to match their previous salaries and benefits.

Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess called the decision by state Education Commissioner Johnny Key “bittersweet” but necessary to avoid an increase in personnel costs.

That possible increase would have come from highly paid veteran employees choosing to stay with the district, thereby “bumping” or displacing lesser-paid employees with less experience for jobs in other parts of the shrinking district, he said.

The education commissioner-approved plan doesn’t let more experienced employees bump others with fewer years of experience.

Employees in the Jacksonville-area schools said they have tough choices to make.

“Things are up in the air for me and my staff,” said Gary Beck, a 27-year employee of the district and current principal of the Bayou Meto Elementary that’ll be part of the new district. “I’m torn between two. I love Jacksonville. … There’s a place in my heart for Jacksonville and a place in my heart for the Pulaski County Special district.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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