Community saves school

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AK — Nestled cozily just outside of the city of North Little Rock, is the unincorporated community of McAlmont. Primarily, the area is populated by socially and economically deprived citizens. Several viable churches of different denominations are scattered throughout the community.  However, for decades the unifying entity has been, and is, the historical public school. Designated to educate the underprivileged, the school has been a beacon lighting the pathway to a better life for many.

Community stakeholders are continuing to provide valuable resources for Harris Elementary School in Pulaski County Special School District.  In 2014, the school and St. Luke Baptist Church formed a partnership to write a 21st Century grant for an after school program at Harris Elementary. The church is providing opportunities for the staff to be hired, enrichment activities for the students, and transportation services.

Local community organizations such as the McAlmont Community Crime Watch and Improvement Committee, have provided landscape services to clear off debris from the campus and community, increased PTA membership, and are keeping a watchful eye on the school by establishing a neighborhood watch program. As of today, Harris has not had a break-in in two years.  Currently, Raymond Smith, the president of the committee, and Simuel Ramey, the chairman of the fundraising and promotions committee, are soliciting donations to refurbish the school’s non-functional outdoor basketball court.

Dr. Darnell B. Bell, the current principal, has provided much needed leadership for the school.  With a renewed focus on making Harris Elementary School the most innovative school in the state, he is constantly bridging relationships with the community, local business leaders, and parents.  Harris Elementary was selected to become an Apple 1:1 Initiative School which began in the 2014 school year.  School staff members Larry Scaife, Dean of Students, and Scotty Herekamp, campus maintenance man are introducing gardening to students by having them participant in planting, nurturing and watching vegetables grow in fertile plots on campus.  Community Crimewatch members are encouraging residents to clear vacant lots and plant vegetables as well. These are actions that will yield a bountiful harvest.  Future projects include an outdoor tennis court and a walking track.

It is hard to believe that a few years ago the powers that be were proposing to close Harris Elementary School. Previous school district and county government officials failed to provide adequate support. With stability in leadership and collaboration with community stakeholders, there is now no doubt that Harris will become one of the top elementary schools in the state of Arkansas.  The campus is located at 4424 Highway 161, North Little Rock, Arkansas 72117. Phone number: (501) 955-3550. Fax number: (501) 955-3555.

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