Lt. Gov. Mark Darr visits Weiner regarding rural issues

WEINER, AR (KAIT) – Arkansas Lt. Governor Mark Darr visited the small town of Weiner in Poinsett County Thursday afternoon as part of a series of "listening tours" held by the Rural Community Alliance. The RCA is a state wide effort to help "rural schools and communities strive and thrive."

"Many Arkansans go to rural schools, so I think you can get just as quality an eductation, if not a better education because of the teacher to student ratio," said Darr. "By listening to the concerns of the people here, that helps people all over Arkansas and hopefully this instance as well."

Darr was first asked about the status of the post offices across Arkansas. He said there were roughly 100 post offices on the "closure list" in northeast Arkansas. He said the postal service has had competition with other entities and the internet.

Secondly, Darr was asked about the situation with the former Weiner School District. Currently, the Friends of the Weiner School District is awaiting a judge's decision in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The group of residents filed a suit after the state of Arkansas forced the district to consolidate with the Harrisburg School District.

"As long as your school can perform academically, it does everything financially, I think that we should let positive schools be in existance," said Darr. "We can stop implementing policies in Little Rock and also DC that help in that killing."

"Each case needs to be looked at individually and see what the effects could do to that community," said Darr. "It's just a matter of time for a generation to pass away and when there's no jobs for the kids to come back to, then that community just dies and that's very unfortunate."

Michelle Cadle has been a supporter of the Weiner School District since learning of the school's possible administrative consolidation. She told Region 8 News Thursday that she's hopeful the district will be reinstated.

"They're not a number. They are a name and they are individuals and we're in the top of the state in our test scores, so there's no reason for us not to exist," said Cadle. "We want it to be the first of many to be preserved, because we believe that this is what is going to be our future."

"We want to preserve our way of life and I believe we will be successful in doing that and I hop that we're able to encourage other communities to folow suit," said Cadle. "It's not about weiner school. it's about every small school in our state because they are the backbone of the country."

Cadle and others also addressed economic issues. Cadle said with Poinsett County one of the leading rice producers in the state of Arkansas, the county could benefit greatly.

The Rural Development Listening Tour was held at 2pm at the First Christian Church of Weiner, 223 Kingshighway.

Members of the organization, according to a media release from Lt. Darr's office, are members of local chapters in which they advocate for issues that impact their schools and communities. Right now, there are 50 chapters in Arkansas consisting of 1,200 members, the released indicated.

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