Group wants to know why Hughes charter school bid was ignored

Community Action Network petitions Department of Education

By Ralph Hardin ralphhardin@gmail.com

A group calling itself the Hughes Community Action Network says it has sent a letter to the Arkansas Department of Education asking what happened to a letter of intent to open a charter school in the community failed to appear on a recent list of applicants. The Action Network sent a copy of the inquiry to the Evening Times’ as well. In the letter, addressed to the Department of Education’s Charter School Program and program advisor Alexandra Boyd, it reads, “Our community organization, the Hughes Community Action Network, was contacted by Mrs. Mechelle Burgess of JBH Collegiate Academy. She expressed her interest in Hughes, Arkansas as a possible location for a JBH Collegiate Academy charter school.” The letter states that over the course of correspondence with Burgess regarding the potential school, “We have come to fully support her efforts in bringing to fruition a world-class STEM and Liberal Arts curriculum based school in our local community.” The group claims that the charter school would “afford our elementary aged children better opportunities than those presently available at Faulk Elementary.” Hughes schools closed at the end of the 2014-2015 school year following a forced consolidation with the West Memphis School District. In the letter, the group claims, “Faulk Elementary is one of West Memphis School District’s worst performing schools and is racially isolated.” According to the most recent data from the Arkansas Department of Education’s website, enrollment at Faulk is 92 percent African American, with a 204 (or D) school report card score. In it’s final year of operation, Mildred Jackson Elementary, ostensibly the pool of students from which the proposed charter school would draw, had a student population that was 85 percent African American, with a 161 (or F) school report card score. “Our community organization members, consisting of local citizens, local city government officials, leaders of faith-based organizations, and local business owners, are in full support of Mrs. Burgess’ submission of a letter of intents to open JBH Collegiate Academy in our community,” said the letter. “However, we are concerned as to why her initial letter of intent, submitted Feb. 26, 2016, before the March 1st deadline, was not posted/uploaded to the Arkansas Dept. of Education Website with the other submitted letters of intent?” The group alleges the submission of the letter of intent was confirmed as “submitted” via e-mail. “Hopefully,” the letter concludes, “this email results in a timely response, corrective action and an adequate resolution of the matter at hand, and Mrs. Burgess’ initial letter of intent is uploaded on the ADE website along with the others.” Though the name of no individual appears on the letter, it is signed by “Advocate Staff, Hughes Community Action Network,” and lists P.O. Box 243 Hughes, AR. 72348, as its address, along with the e-mail address hughesc.a.n.ark@gmail.com, and the phrase, “Oh Yes, Hughes C.A.N.”

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