The Mount Pleasant, Cushman and Evening Shade school boards met March 1 to discuss administrative consolidation options. Act 60, passed by the Arkansas Legislature, stipulates that school districts with less than 350 students must consolidate with another district.
Mount Pleasant Superintendent Harold Lamb said Evening Shade with 330 students and Mount Pleasant with 324 students must come up with a plan to consolidate by April 1. Cushman Superintendent Gary Anderson said his school board came to the meeting because they think the student number for consolidation will go up during the next legislative session. He said Cushman has approximately 370 students.
Lamb said Mount Pleasant was looking to consolidate with Evening Shade, Cushman, Melbourne, or a combination of those schools. He said Mount Pleasant, Cushman, Evening Shade and Melbourne would be better off if they consider consolidating all of their schools. Lamb said the state legislature may raise the number again and it would create less headache for the schools if they were already consolidated.
Lamb said the consolidation of all four school districts makes fiscal sense. He said Melbourne has a solid tax base and would help the other three schools bring in needed funds.
Anderson said the Cushman School Board has already voted unanimously to consolidate with Mount Pleasant if Mount Pleasant voted to do the same. However, he said consolidation of the three schools -- Mount Pleasant, Cushman and Evening Shade -- was not an attractive idea to his school board. He said geography of the district would cause an exodus of students from the Cushman area to the Batesville School District, if Evening Shade were included in the deal.
Anderson said he also had concerns as to how well one administrative district could run three different campuses.
Evening Shade Superintendent Karen Smith said Evening Shade was interested in consolidation with Mount Pleasant, Cushman or both. She said she understood Cushman's concern about the geographic problem but noted that even if the three school districts went together, their bus routes would still be smaller than Highland's School District.
Smith said the Evening Shade School Board was looking into the possibility of consolidating with the Lynn and Valley View school districts. She said this was problematic; however, because of the distance between those two schools and Evening Shade. She also said there is a possibility that Evening Shade could be annexed by the Cave City School District and that was something the school board didn't want to happen.
Smith asked the Mount Pleasant and Cushman school boards to make up their minds about consolidation options as soon as possible. Lamb said they were sending out a questionnaire with all of the consolidation possibilities on it. He said he and the board would follow the wishes of the people in the school district. Anderson said he would send out a questionnaire if his school board would allow it. Lamb said they should know by early next week how they are going to move in this matter.