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Study supports Sherwood school district

A Sherwood School District is financially feasible and would have no demographic impact on the Pulaski County Special School District, supporters of the proposed district has announced.

The Sherwood Public Education Foundation announced recently the results of the feasibility study commissioned from independent consultant Norman Hill at a news conference in the Bill Harmon Recreation Center. With the study in hand, the Foundation will begin planning its next steps in the process of forming a Sherwood School District.

“We want to assure the citizens of Sherwood that our efforts to establish a Sherwood School District continue,” said Foundation co-chairman Beverly Williams. “We understand that we must wait until the Pulaski County School District is declared unitary before we can have our own district, but we will be ready when that day arrives.”

The feasibility study shows that the proposed Sherwood School District would be the 16th largest school district in the state with 4,649 students. Financial data was compared with similarly sized districts (Jonesboro, Russellville, Benton, El Dorado and Pine Bluff) on three indicators: Assessed value, bonded indebtedness, and total funding.

The proposed Sherwood School District would have an assessment value of $605.3 million. When compared that with similarly sized districts, the proposed Sherwood School District ranks second, behind Russellville, which includes the Nuclear One power plant.)

Currently, the Pulaski County Special School District has an assessment value of $2.5 billion. Its per student assessment value is $148,039. If the proposed Sherwood School District detached, the per-student assessment value for Pulaski County Special School District would actually increase to $154,719 per student.

Because the assessment value of the proposed Sherwood School District is 23.97 percent of the assessed value for Pulaski County Special School District, the study assumes that the proposed district would assume the same proportion of debt.

Under that assumption, the total bonded indebtedness for the proposed Sherwood School District would be $35,283,840. Both districts would have a 5.82 debt ratio, just as the current Pulaski County School District does. (Debt ratio is the total debt divided by the total assessed value.)

A comparison of foundation funding and local tax dollars for the comparison districts puts the proposed Sherwood School District right in the middle with $39 million in funding. The per-student funding picture is even better, with Sherwood ranking second with $8,396 per student.

The study also found that two of the school buildings in the proposed Sherwood School District have negative depreciation values, meaning they will need to be replaced. Those are Harris Elementary and Sherwood Elementary. While the old Sylvan Hills Middle School also has a negative depreciation value, no students attend school in the oldest sections of those buildings.

In terms of student demographics, the study showed that the proposed Sherwood School District would have no impact on the Pulaski County Special School District as it would be a virtual microcosm of the larger district:

• PCSSD is 44.5 percent white; the proposed Sherwood School District would be 45.5 percent white

• PCSSD is 43.5 percent black, the proposed Sherwood School District would be 44 percent black

• PCSSD is 6.5 percent Hispanic; Sherwood would be 6 percent Hispanic

• PCSSD enrollment has 55.5 percent of its students qualifying free or reduced-price lunch; Sherwood would have 58 percent qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch

• Both PCSSD and the proposed Sherwood School district have 12 percent enrolled in special education

“This study shows that a Sherwood School District truly can be a reality,” Foundation co-chair Linda Remele said. “We are committed to this because we believe a Sherwood School District will better meet the educational needs of our students, will operate more efficiently and effectively, will have a positive economic impact on the city of Sherwood and will be a stronger district under local control.”

The Sherwood Public Education Foundation will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 19, at Sylvan Hills Church of Christ. The Foundation will present the study and also answer questions community members might have.

The complete feasibility study and more information about the Sherwood Public Education Foundation’s efforts can be found on its website at www.sherwoodeducation.org. The Foundation also has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sherwoodeducation.

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