The Pine Bluff branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Go Forward Pine Bluff (GFPB) released a joint press release on Friday announcing plans to inform the community of the results from the consolidation study.

In February of 2020, GFPB submitted to the press that it was prepared to facilitate a study regarding the consolidation of the schools in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. GFPB has done its due diligence since the NAACP sponsored the community school consolidation discussion in June of 2018.

According to the winter release, GFPB needed to understand the impact of engaging in such a process and ensure that the approach does not disrupt the GFPB plan. A significant amount of time learning from past community examples, implementing the current education initiatives, and realizing we must prepare for future considerations beyond our control.

“The consolidation study has been one of the more enlightening initiatives during my time as CEO,” says Ryan Watley. Hired researchers along with a local committee of educational stakeholders really went to school to understand the educational landscape in Pine Bluff. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are quite evident from the results and substantiate the recommendations made by the committee.

A community meeting is set for Tuesday Sept. 29, 2020 at the Pine Bluff Convention Center Auditorium at 6 p.m. Social distancing will be enforced and wearing a facemask will be required. The meeting will also be available on Facebook Live and Zoom.

Wanda V. Neal, President of the Pine Bluff branch of the NAACP, commented that “I was initially apprehensive about the consolidation study. However, the past eight months have been very eye opening to the needs of our students and the future of this community. FES Consultants have been phenomenal and more importantly unbiased in their approach. The structure of the committee was also dynamic as the diversity in thought really provided for a functioning working group. I believe the community will be rather surprised with what the report states and the recommendations”.

The following represents the consolidation study committee members: Chair, Diane Gilleland – Professor of finance at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and former director at Arkansas Department of Higher Education Vice-Chair, Calvin Johnson – Retired Educator, Dean of UAPB education, Interim Chancellor at UAPB, Arkansas Representative Joni Alexander – current Director of Community Outreach at FBT Bank, Pine Bluff City Council member and former educator. Glen Barnes – Pastor of Pine Hill Baptist Church; Leader in the Juvenile Justice Center Wanda V. Neal – President of the Pine Bluff NAACP Mattie Collins – retired educator and director of Ivy Center for Education Alan Frazier – Watson Chapel School Board President, financial estate planner Spencer Robinson – former attorney for Pine Bluff School District Ex-Officio Dr. Wanda Newell – Interim Dean of UAPB School Education.

Watley added “I would like to thank the committee members for their dedication and input to create this discussion platform. They have transitioned with the uncertain conditions of COVID-19 and in the end, put it all on the table for the community to be informed. I implore the citizens of Pine Bluff and educational stakeholders throughout the region to attend the meeting whether in person or virtually. It does not matter if you have children currently in one of the three districts. The data that will be revealed impacts everyone and we are all stakeholders in the future of Pine Bluff. It is imperative that the community be aware of what the committee has discovered and provide input on the recommendations.”

For questions about the community meeting, please contact 870-939-6900.