An east Arkansas school district is being taken over by the state, effective Monday.
The Department of Education says a review last month found the Earle School District had "substantial audit violations and unallowable expenses." Close to $2 million in improper expenditures of state and federal funds are alleged beginning in the fall of 2015.
Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key said in a statement:
Our main priority is to ensure the students in the Earle School District receive a quality education. While we never want to exercise the right to assume authority of a school district, this action is necessary in light of the serious lack of financial stability and academic oversight and ongoing risk of improper spending of taxpayer dollars. Our immediate objective is to stabilize the finances and management of the district so every student in the district has the ability to learn and thrive in a sound educational environment.
The department says Superintendent Rickey Nicks has resigned and Key has appointed Richard Wilde with the state’s School Improvement Unit to the position. Wilde will report directly to Key. The Earle School District's Board of Directors has been suspended, but members will be allowed to remain in an advisory capacity to the new superintendent.
The Earle School District was classified last month as being in fiscal distress and will now face a legislative audit.