Friday, July 09, 2010

TOP STORY > >District’s new hires to focus on failures in Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

Charles Hopson, in his first week on the job as superintendent of Pulaski County Special School District, has tapped two veteran educators to turn conditions around at Jacksonville High School.

The dilapidated state of the 40-year-old facility caught the attention of district officials, the public and news media this spring when a group of graduating Jacksonville High seniors made a presentation to the school board with photos of the school as well as statistics showing that Jacksonville is getting short shrifted when it comes to allocation of district capital-improvement funding.

June Haynie, in her 31st year with PCSSD, will serve as principal on one-year special assignment. This year she finished her fourth year as principal of Robinson High School.

Karl Brown, who retired from the district in 2006, will serve as the director on special assignment from the superintendent’s office, which is a new position for the district.

Brown’s role will be to address the three priorities identified by Hopson as critical to the school: racial disparities in student discipline and achievement, safety and orderliness of the school environment and cleanliness and general condition of the facilities.

“It is a school in crisis,” Brown said in an interview Thursday. “You have to get some things in place to get the school under control.”

Hopson said he chose Brown because of his past success at other schools in improving test scores and fostering a climate of accountability – two attributes he wanted in new leadership for the school.

Brown has lived in Jacksonville for the past 12 years. As assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services – his last job with the district – Brown said he recalls even then that the high school “was one of the schools in Jacksonville most talked about” because of discipline issues and lagging test scores.

“I am a no-nonsense administrator,” Brown said. “I will hold both students and teachers accountable. I told Dr. Hopson that I felt that I could be of assistance because I am somewhat familiar with the problems they are facing, but it will be a challenge. I am really interested in the students at Jacksonville High School.”

Brown’s role will be to observe, assess, recommend and bring individuals together to solve the problems the school faces.

“My communication will be with the superintendent directly,” Brown said.

Four committees already in place – targeting safety and gangs, activities and tutoring, student mentoring and facilities – will help in the change process at the school. Community members, teachers and administrators and students will comprise the committees.

“Everything we put in place will be a recommendation from these committees,” Brown said. “We value their input and welcome people from the community to be involved.”

Anyone interested in joining the committees should contact Brenda Bowles at the district office, Brown said.

On Monday, Brown will conduct a walk-through of the school with district maintenance.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of money to clean the place up – the tile, carpet and restrooms,” Brown said. “We want kids to come to a clean, safe, orderly environment.”

Jacksonville High is not alone when it comes to high suspension rates for African-American students. In 2008-09, 73 percent of black students at the school were suspended compared to 27 percent of the whites.

Rates at Jacksonville Girls Middle School and Mills University Studies High School were higher, with 73 percent and 76 percent of the black students, respectively, suspended that year. Rates for white students were a third of that for blacks.

“We are going to have to get African-American students to value education more so,” Brown said.

There are plans to bring Kareem Moody, a motivational speaker who works with gangs and troubled youth, to the school to help improve school climate and develop student leadership.

Meetings with students by grade and gender are planned early in the new school year “to make sure that students know what is expected,” Brown said. “It is just a matter of sharing the handbook with them. It is very important that we are very consistent in regard to what we will tolerate here at Jacksonville High School. We have to make some changes.”

All students will be required to wear identification badges.

Brown, 53, began his career in 1978 teaching special education at Sylvan Hills High School. The following year he taught fifth grade at Bayou Meto Elementary School. In 1983, he left the district to work for the Arkansas Department of Education as the special-education supervisor for south central Arkansas. Brown has also worked as an administrator at Sylvan Hills Middle School, Pinewood Elementary and College Station Elementary. He was principal of Oakbrooke Elementary School in Sherwood for 15 years.

Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in education from the University of Central Arkansas.


June Haynie says that she is ready to meet the challenges at Jacksonville High “head on,” using strategies that helped to raise test scores at Robinson High School faster than any other school in the district.

“It will take all of us working together – teachers, parents and students,” Haynie said. “That is what we did at Robinson, and we can do the same thing at Jacksonville.”

Consistent with Hopson’s vision that PCSSD principals be the instructional leaders for their schools, Haynie said her charge will be to improve overall development of curriculum and teaching strategies.

She won’t be bringing in new ideas or approaches so much as “reminding teachers of what they already know works,” Haynie explained. “It is a matter of putting proven best practices into place.

“We won’t solve everything, but we can do quite a bit in a year.” Strategies that worked at Robinson, Haynie is eager to implement at Jacksonville. For example, professional development in instructional methods for advanced placement classes will be open to all teachers.

“My goal is to have as many of our teachers as possible have AP training,” Haynie said. “All students benefit – lower level, regular and accelerated.”

Classroom instruction will consist of less lecture and more “hands-on, so that students are actually doing, are involved.”

Creating an environment where teachers can teach and students can learn is paramount, Haynie said.

“We will have a safe school. You’ll see (the administrators) a lot in halls and in the classrooms. Parents and students need to see us there. We set the tone just by being there, being proactive.”

A team approach involving school administrators, teachers, parents and students will help teachers get a holistic view of each individual student and give students, especially ninth-graders, the support they need to progress, Haynie says.

“Ninth-graders tend to get lost in the transition from middle to high school, and this will give them more of a base to go,” Haynie said. “This is difficult for parents as well as students, so this will be a way for parents to get a true overview of what is going on.”

Haynie wants to see students participating in the committees organized to improve the school.

“We certainly need student involvement,” Haynie said. “I would push for that, yes. Students are pretty good at solving problems that they know something about.”

Haynie holds a bachelor’s degree in home economics with a minor in biology from Henderson State University and a master’s degree and certification in school administration from the University of Central Arkansas. She began her career at Poplar Street
Middle School in the North Little Rock School District as a home-economics teacher.

In 1978, she replaced her home-economics teacher at her alma mater, Robinson High, where she taught for 23 years.

She served as assistant principal at Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski high schools and director of secondary educator for NLRSD before returning to Robinson in 2006 to serve as principal.