Arkansas Family Coalition

PO Box 9076, Jonesboro, AR 72403

Phone: 870-932-5065 Fax 870-910-0464



Our Concerns with the Implementation of the Magnet Schools and IB program at Jonesboro

Debbie Pelley's Presentation Before the Jonesboro School Board, February 13, 07


(See Transcript of TV coverage and link to video online below by channel that reaches 370 thousand households and covers Northeast AR & Southeast MO.)


My name is Debbie Pelley.  I have lived in Jonesboro for 35 years, my only  daughter graduated from Jonesboro, and I come tonight representing myself  as a retired teacher and as a representative of  the Arkansas Family Coalition state organization. 


I  hope you won't mistake my concerns for criticism of  Jonesboro schools which has numerous good, dedicated teachers, and  a good school system; I would just like to see it stay that way. 


I know many people in the community and teachers are very concerned that Jonesboro is implementing magnet schools. I talked to  school officials at Pine Bluff who implemented magnet schools back in the 80's.  The Deputy Superintendent told me they received a federal grant (mega bucks our taxes) and thought they had everything they wanted, but it just didn't work for them. They  are going back to neighborhood schools this year.  He said the busing problem had been a nightmare, and that students wanting  to change from one school to another had been a nightmare. (Nightmare was his word)  Another problem was that when the grants ran out they could not get the funds to continue their programs.


Both Pine Bluff and Hot Springs school officials told me they started their magnet schools in order to draw students from other districts because of declining enrollment.  One Jonesboro school official told me pretty much the same thing.    That doesn't seem like a noble reason to scramble an entire school system to me. 


Hot Springs is one of the models Jonesboro is using for the magnet schools.    Many Jonesboro teachers, board members, and administrators have visited that school.   The paper also reported they were looking  at Hot Springs as a model.


Based on the latest performance records on the Arkansas Department of Education website in 2005, Jonesboro's performance scores are better than Hot Springs in about 35 categories out of 40, ,and by  many points,  as much as 28 points higher in 11th grade literacy.  The 2006 scores won't be out until March according to three ADE personnel with whom I spoke.


Hot Springs' graduation rate was only 56%.  That is right, 56% graduation rate, 30% lower than Jonesboro's graduation rate which was 86%.


Sixty-seven percent of Hot Springs students had to have college remediation in 2005, 22% more of their students needed remediation than Jonesboro's students.  Jonesboro had 45.8% remediation rate, better than the state average. 


Hot Spring's  ACT score in English was 17.8 and Jonesboro's a 22. 


However, a Jonesboro school official told me a few weeks ago that Hot Springs had great scores.  I finally found one Hot Springs school with very good scores.  It was the magnet school that had the IB program.  That led to research that shows the magnet schools there have been set up pretty much like a social caste system. 


The school with the highest scores has only 12% of the Hot Springs elementary students and has 75% white and 25% minority students.   The magnet school with the lowest scores has 71% minority and 29% white.  I don't think we want an elitist education system like that in Jonesboro.


At Batesville one magnet school has 35% minority and another magnet school has 4% minority.  Research shows that although integration was supposed to be a goal for starting magnet schools, in practicality it has led to more segregation.


When the Hot Springs scores were sent by email to most of the staff at Jonesboro by a citizen in the community, that person was blocked by the district so the teachers could not receive more emails. I find it shocking that school officials would do this in order to keep the teachers and community from the truth. 


Hot Springs per pupil spending is almost $1400 more than Jonesboro (Hot Springs $8,688 per student and Jonesboro $7,348.)  Instead of improving after implementing magnet schools, Hot Springs'  scores have fallen in numerous areas.  For example, in 2005 the graduation rate at Hot Springs  was 56%, but in 2004 it was 69.8% and in 2003 74.1%.


The International Baccalaureate) program (also called IB) is another concern of mine.  IB is a United Nations program that has been thrown out of some school districts because of its far left and anti Christian  agenda.  Hot Springs is the only school in Arkansas that has implemented IB district wide.


In November it was posted on the web that Jonesboro would apply for this IB program "as soon as possible" - just as Hot Springs had done.  One significant Jonesboro administrator pointed out to me that the IB had been deleted from the website; but when I asked if he could point blank tell me that they would not be doing the IB program , he said no he could not tell me that.  I spoke personally with another school official just after that who had no idea they were backing away from this program.  Shortly after that another school official in central office sent out an email to teachers saying they would not be doing an IB program.  Shortly after that another influential school official said in a message to me that  he certainly hoped they were not backing away from the IB program. 


Since it was officially posted on the web that Jonesboro was applying for the IB status, I would ask that  official action like a  resolution or vote by the Board be taken  so the community will know the final decision on this.  This issue is too important to be left just to an administrator.


And I would hope the Board would address the issue as to whether administrators have the right to block messages from citizens in the community about magnet schools and other issues.


Batesville, another school Jonesboro has looked at, does have some very good scores.  However, their demographics are totally different from Jonesboro.  They are half the size and have less than half the number of minorities as Jonesboro.  Further, their graduation rate is 10% lower than that of Jonesboro.  And they are only in their 3rd year of the program.


I would ask the Jonesboro district to put the magnet school plans on hold until further studies are done and the community has a chance to have input in the decision.


All the data on the scores can be found on Arkansas Department of Education website, and I have the links and this presentation in the written form for anyone that wants it.  Be sure when you look at scores, look at the whole picture and check the facts carefully. Just a few facts can paint a totally false picture.


Note:  Scores for Hot Springs and Jonesboro can be found on the Arkansas state website:  The performance records are fairly easy to find.  To access these scores  go to   It brings you to the State Report Card.  Scroll down to District and arrow down to Jonesboro and click submit.  Do the same for Hot Springs.


Debbie Pelley



Another note added for this online article:  This presentation was not written in the manner I would usually present but was written for the purpose of getting as much information in as I could in the five minutes I was allowed to speak.


For other articles on International Baccalaureate (IB) program, go to and look for articles on home page with IBO  in the title

or check the links at the end of this email..


Transcript of TV report on Debbie Pelley's Presentation on Magnet Schools to the Jonesboro School Board,  February 13, 07. (KAIT reaches all of Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri and covers 370,000 households.


Link to the actual TV coverage of the presentation.    Go to and look under Playlists for

 "Will Magnet Schools Stick, One Retired Teacher Said No." or this link which links directly to the video. Transcript of this coverage is below.




Reporter is Marsha Mayes, teacher is Pelley, and Board member is Hendrix.


Lead to the story at beginning of news:   Jonesboro's elementaries going magnet.  One Teacher Says It Won't Work.


In the lead into the story TV news anchors  said "A former teacher is claiming a plan to turn Jonesboro elementaries into magnet schools won't stick!  There was a heated debate over the subject at tonight 's school board meeting.  Marsha Mays is standing live in the newsroom with more.


Reporter: The decision has already been made.  The plans for Jonesboro magnet schools are in place.  Teachers have already been assigned locations.  And starting March 10 parents can begin making their child's school selections.  But at tonight's school board meeting, it was a packed house as a retired teacher presented information as to why she thinks the magnet schools just won't work.  As a retired teacher of 27 years, Debbie Pelley is concerned about the future of the Jonesboro Public Schools:


Pelley:  "I feel like Jonesboro has made the wrong decision, and not only I but numerous others do as well" 


Reporter:  She is talking about the recent decision to implement magnet themes at five of their elementary schools.  Pelley presented  pages and pages of research to the Jonesboro School Board including reasons why they should not choose magnet schools.


Pelley:   I think the scores will drop.  I think there will be all kinds of problems, and I think eventually they will move back."


Reporter:    But some of the school board strongly disagreed. 


Board member Hendrix: My first question to her was, "How many of these schools have you been in?"  She has never been to one of them.  I am sorry, but you can't really talk about a school until you've been in it; and I have been in these schools, and I hope that people that have doubts about magnet schools go visit a magnet school because you really don't know them until you are actually in them."


Pelley:  When the Board member said had I been to the school, you know, the Arkansas Department of Education doesn't close schools down because of the way they look, they close them down because of their scores;  and when you have a 57% graduation rate like Hot Springs, then why would you go look?


Reporter: Pelley says she has done her research, and the numbers are there to prove it. 


Pelley:  "Why didn't the administrators check into all of this.  I mean if I can do this research, why can't they?


Reporter: But Hendrix says they have done their homework.  You know this magnet school concept has been studied at Jonesboro district for the last ten years, and we have researched this in great detail.


Reporter:  Hot Springs was the school Jonesboro used as a model for the magnet program.  Mrs. Pelley compares the two schools' graduation rates and according to her research, Hot Spring was 56% in 2005 compared to Jonesboro's 86 percent.


Board Member Hendrix:   The graduation rate of the magnet school should go by the scores that kids  make on their benchmarks not on graduation rates.  Hendrix says he feels confident that the Board and the school district have made a great choice and these concerns are simply minor compared to the amount of support behind the decision. Everybody is going to be skeptical about what is good and about what is bad and it will take us a couple of years I am sure to get on the road to where everyone will understand what it is about.


Reporter:  Now Pelley concluded her presentation to the Board asking them to stop all plans to implement the magnet schools and re-evaluate their decision.  The Board made no further reference of her presentation in the remainder of the Board meeting.  Live in the newsroom,  Marsha  Mayes KAIT8 News, night beat.


IBO A Controversial UN Global Education Program That Conflicts With Judeo-Christian Values Has Been Established In Arkansas by SB1054 of 2005


Description of International Baccalaureate (IB) Education by Director Himself - IB Is The Anti Christian Education Program Being Implemented in Arkansas by 2005 Law


IB, Magnet Schools, Hot Springs/Jonesboro Comparison of Scores



Bob Hester

Arkansas Family Coalition

Phone 870-932-5065


This article can be read online at this link: