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— Gentry Public School District received word Friday, indicating it had complied with the recommendations and requirements of the Arkansas Department of Education for removal from fiscal distress status and could be removed as early as the State Board of Education's October meeting.

A Sept. 25 letter from Hazel Burnett, ADE Coordinator of Fiscal Distress Accountability and Reporting, to Gentry School District superintendent Dr. Randy Barrett, said the following:

"This letter is to certify that the Gentry School District has completed all activities and strategies as outlined in the district's Fiscal Distress Improvement Plan. The district has also complied with all department recommendations and requirements for removal from fiscal distress. The district may now petition the State Board for removal from fiscal distress status ... The petition will be presented to the State Board at the Oct. 12, 2009 meeting. Please plan to attend this meeting and be prepared to answer any questions the State Board may have concerning your district and its programs.

"We congratulate the Gentry School District and encourage continued diligence to sustain this improvement," the letter stated.

Barrett on Friday petitioned for release in the following letter:

"Dear Dr. Kimbrell and the Arkansas State Board of Education:

"On behalf of the Gentry School Board and the Gentry Public School District and in accordance with the provisions of A.C.A. 6-20-1908(c), I respectfully request that the Gentry Public School District be 'removed from fiscal distress status.'

"Our relatively short 'turn around' can be attributed to several factors and are summarized briefly as follows:

• The passage, by our parents and patrons, of three dedicated maintenance and operation mills in September 2007;

• The conclusion of a major building program, Gentry Primary School, which had been 'cash intensive';

• The joint creation of a stringent, Fiscal Distress Improvement Plan by district staff, school board members, and ADE officials;

• The implementation of that Fiscal Distress Improvement Plan;

• The willingness of staff to follow the Fiscal Distress Improvement Plan even if such required personal sacrifice;

• The implementation of a process of continuous fiscal monitoring by district staff;

• The encouragement, support, and expertise of ADE officials; (and)

• The continual encouragement and support of the Gentry community.

"It is important for me to note, in appreciation to our district's instructional staff, that through this process our four campuses remain fully accredited by NCA-CASI, all four campuses remain fully accredited by the ADE, all four campuses hold the 'Ach' AYP status, and state test data reflects that Gentry students, in general, are achieving at, or in many cases exceeding, state and regional averages.

"I would be remiss if I did not finish this request by offering my personal word of thanks to Ms. Hazel Burnett, Ms. Alisa Moore, and Mr. Bill Goff for their committed and untiring efforts in working with the Gentry Public School District to help us achieve and maintain fiscal solvency for the present and the future."

The district received notification from the Arkansas Department of Education that it had been identified as in fiscal distress on Feb. 29, 2008, because of cash-flow loans and end-of-year declining balances. That recommendation was taken up by the State Board of Education in April of 2008.

The school district's financial situation has greatly improved in the last year and a half. No cash-flow loan was needed in the 2009 fiscal year and Barrett has projected an ending balance of $1.9 million at the close of the 2010 fiscal year (June 30).

News, Pages 1, 2 on 09/30/2009

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