State Board assumes authority of Lee County School District

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Board of Education has voted to take control of an eastern Arkansas school district, immediately removing the district’s superintendent and School Board.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Monday’s unanimous vote followed the Education Board’s decision to place the Lee County district and Lee County High School on probation for violating state certification standards that require upkeep of student records for graduation.

The board overruled an appeal made by Superintendent Elizabeth Johnson and her employees that the 718-student district not be put on probation.

State Department of Education officials told the board that the district breached state standards by not maintaining correct, up-to-date transcripts for its students. Officials also noted the parents and students weren’t given proper guidance to schedule the course credits that are needed to graduate.

"These kids need our immediate attention," Deborah Coffman, Assistant Commissioner with Public School Accountability, said. "We have approximately 46 calendar days to help them not only complete their senior class schedule, but all these additional courses they need to graduate on time."

Coffman says 35 of Lee County's 56 graduating seniors have incomplete or inaccurate transcripts. The transcript problem left many students taking the wrong classes, which means they may not have the credits to graduate.

The issue caught many parents and students completely by surprise. In fact, at this point, only 70 percent of the district's juniors are on schedule to graduate on time. What's more, an additional review shows several students who failed classes and had incomplete records graduated in 2018.

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