East End/Sheridan School Consolidation Some Still Ask Why By Jim Lancaster Why did East End School in Saline County School consolidate with Sheridan Schools in Grant County way back in 1949? Through the years, newcomers to both areas have frequently asked this question, and most folks dont know the answer. To many, it is a mystery that is difficult to explain because the East End campus, in Saline County, is closer to other school districts than it is to the city of Sheridan, in Grant County. Bauxite, Bryant, Benton or even Little Rock are closer than Sheridan. The long list of other schools that have consolidated into Sheridan Schools were all in Grant County and those consolidations seemed very logical, but crossing county lines to consolidate has not frequently been done. Although the decision-makers of both schools of that era are no longer alive, some folks remember that there was a 1949 agreement or compromise between leaders that Tull School would consolidate with to Bauxite, and East End would consolidate to Sheridan. Many Arkansas school consolidations were happening at that time because of an Act of the 1948 Arkansas General Assembly that required consolidation of schools with less than 350 students. Old records of the minutes of the Grant County Board of Education, dated February 23, 1949, show the following statement: after much discussion . an agreement was reached and District 42, Tull, became a part of Bauxite District 14, of Saline County. And on March 15, 1949, the record shows: A petition from the Saline County Board of Education was filed with the Grant County Board to dissolve the East End School District No 2, for the purpose of attaching to and becoming a part of District 37, Sheridan, Grant County. What went on in the negotiations and compromise to get to an agreement for the Tull/Bauxite and East End/Sheridan consolidation is not recorded, except in the vague statement of after much discussion. The East End campus offers grades K-6 and grades 7-12 come to the Sheridan campus which is a distance of about 19 miles. Counting the additional miles beyond the East End campus, some students may travel up to 25 miles to school. There are about 800 students K-6 and about 550 in grades 7-12, which totals 1350 students, said Sheridan School Supt. David Robinson. Even with the transportation of that number of students, the arrangement has worked now for 54 years. In that time, East End has always had representation on the Sheridan School Board. The East End representation on the seven member board is currently Bobby Pierce (who was Chairman of the Board for many years) and Jody Spann. The total enrollment at Sheridan is about 4200, so the 1350 at East End is about one-third of our total, said Robinson. I dont think any other school district in Arkansas has that kind of split in population, that far apart and it is very unusual for school districts to cross county lines like ours does. In fact, at 1350 students, the East End enrollment is much larger than a large percentage of Arkansas school districts. For comparison, Poyen School in this county has about 500 students. The 1350 East End students make up an enrollment that is close to the 1500 recommended minimum enrollment for a school recommended in the Governors program, Robinson remarked. Asked if Sheridan had already accomplished the regional approach to school districts recommended by the Blue Ribbon Education Commission and the some state education leaders, Robinson said, Yes, I think so. When you think of the consolidation of Grapevine, Leola and Prattsville schools to Sheridan in recent years, plus the East End consolidation of the past, this is probably what they are looking at in a regional school with multiple campuses. Perhaps one of the most unusual results of the East End/Sheridan consolidation is the number of marriages that probably have resulted. Since 1949, it is not unusual for an East End boy or girl to marry a Sheridan boy or girl no one can say for sure that the marriages wouldnt have happened anyway, but without the consolidation these couples may have never met. Here are a few examples of Sheridan/East End marriages: Mike and Brenda Alexander Mike (class of 1973) and Brenda (Cunningham) (class of 1972) live in Sheridan, have two children, but have ties in both places. Brendas business, a salon named Laurens, is in East End. While Mike is Chairman of the Sheridan School Board and holds an important position in the school, he says, Thinking back to our time in high school, I remember getting called to the principals office for holding hands with Brenda in the hall. Eugene and Kathy (Winbury) Webb Eugene (class of 1962) and Kathy (class of 1963) now own the Sheridan Headlight newspaper in Sheridan that also has a distribution in East End. They have 3 children and 4 grandchildren. Kathy says, We lived at East End and shopped at Benton or Little Rock, so if it hadnt been for coming to school in Sheridan, I probably wouldnt have come to Sheridan at all when I was a child. Doug and Kim Hollinger Doug and Kim (Cunningham) were in the class of 1984 and have 3 children. Im glad the consolidation happened, because my alternative of going to school in Little Rock was not attractive, in fact, my family moved to East End when I was in the 8th grade so we could be in the East End/Sheridan school district, said Kim Hollinger. Franklin and Phana (Williams) Johnson Franklin and Phana now have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Franklin said, Our class of 1957 had several East End/Sheridan marriages, Bruce Cullins and Louise Donham, James Pruitt and Polly Ware, Clayton Caple and Carolyn Baxley, come quickly to my memory. Some outstanding athletes of Sheridan Sports history have been from the East End Community. Perhaps the most famous was All-State basketball player, Jerry Carlton, who led Sheridan to a State Championship in the late 1950s. Carlton went on to the Arkansas Razorbacks and was All-SWC, and set a freshman scoring record at the University. The distance and travel makes it difficult for parents to attend the frequent events of senior high students. So students and parents often make unusual moves to be close enough to participate in activities of their students. We know of several instances where East End families have moved to Sheridan while their child was in High School, and then moved back to East End when the child graduates, said School Administrator Steve Brown. We think our East End campus functions quite well and our facilities are equal at both campuses, said Supt. Robinson. We are currently working with the architects to spend $2 million at East End to take down some of the old buildings and replace them. We recently opened a new cafeteria there too. So, for whatever reasons the 1949 decisions were made to consolidate East End School with Sheridan School, it has worked, and countless lives have been impacted hopefully in positive ways. Photo: School Board Chairman Mike Alexander and Brenda Alexander in front of the Sheridan school building on the consolidation walk.