Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Kidding on the Block

It was only a matter of time. Superintendent Bobby New has recommended selling Fayetteville High School and the surrounding 40 acres to the University of Arkansas. Hardly anyone who has been following local events can be surprised about that, and everyone knows that the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees will approve an agreement in principle to buy the property at its meeting on June 6th.

This all started last May when the Cowbirds decided that they wanted a new high school built to support their vision of economic development. On June 1, Jeff Koeng signed a letter for the Fayetteville Economic Development Council asserting that the existing campus was detrimental to recruitment of business. On June 5, Bill Ramsey told the school board that the Cowbirds wanted a new school at a new location. On August 29, Bobby New met with John White about selling the campus, preparatory to a UA Board meting last September. In November, Laura Underwood, Reed Greenwood, and six other former school board members held a press conference urging sale of the campus to the UA and stressing that the idea was backed by the Cowbirds.

In January of this year, UA Trustees Jim Lindsey and John Tyson and UA Chancellor John White suggested paying a "pemium" for the high school property; Bobby New called that "an exciting option." To demonstrate their new commitment to better listening and communication, the school board appointed a big committee that staged a series of hearings looking at options. Greg Harton and the Northwest Arkansas Times provided a steady flow of ink in support of dumping the current high school. An organization called BuildSmart presented the best case for building a new school on the current campus, then last month, as expected, the Select Committee II recommended unloading the high school property and building elsewhere.

A guy from Wheeler named Joel Nunneley bought a poll that purported to show that likely voters are giddy about the chances to raise their property taxes significantly to build a new high school somewhere besides the current location in central Fayetteville. I doubt that a majority of actual voters support Bobby New's scheme to sell off the high school, but it will most assuredly be endorsed by a majority of the Fayetteville School Board and the UA Board of Trustees.

Then we will vote.

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