jeremyowoh Arkansas Department of Education
Assistant Arkansas Education Commissioner Jeremy Owoh has been appointed superintendent of the Pine Bluff district.

State of Arkansas takes control of Pine Bluff district, appoints new superintendent

State officials say the district is mired in academic and financial difficulties.

The state of Arkansas has taken over management of the Pine Bluff school district and has appointed an assistant state education commissioner as district superintendent.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that state Education Commissioner Johnny Key has appointed Jeremy Owoh to run the Pine Bluff School District, which the state has taken over  ecause of financial problems.

Owoh, 39, is the state's assistant commissioner for educator effectiveness and licensure and a former high school principal and was an assistant superintendent in the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District.

Key says Owoh is "definitely well prepared to take on the challenge and we are certainly looking forward to hearing of his leadership success."

The state Education Board voted last week to classify Pine Bluff as a district in fiscal distress and to remove the Pine Bluff School Board and interim superintendent.

Monica McMurray, executive director of learning services, had been serving as interim superintendent in Pine Bluff. In the wake of the state takeover, McMurray will resume her previous job.

The previous superintendent, Michael Robinson Jr., left in June after the board bought out his contract. The buyout came at the end of a year in which the Pine Bluff district's schools received three D's and four F's in the state's revised letter grading system for schools.

Pien Bluff's financial problems stem in part from yearly declines in student enrollment. The district lost 1,552 students between the 2007-08 and 2017-18 school years, falling from 5,200 to 3,648.

Ryan L. Watley, chief executive officer of the Go Forward Pine Bluff organization, told the state Education Board that his organization of civic and business people had no confidence in the locally elected school board's capacity to navigate the district'w financial challenges.

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