Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TOP STORY >> Lonoke superintendent, deputy quit

Leader staff writer

Lonoke Superintendent John Tackett has resigned to work for the Pulaski County Special School District as its director of secondary education. Additionally Janice Warren, the former District superintendent, has been named PCSSD’s director of primary education.

The Lonoke School District will begin its search for new leadership this week. The school board accepted his resignation after a few hours in executive session at its meeting on Monday.

Tackett’s last day will be June 30. He’ll start at PCSSD July 1.

Assistant Superintendent Melissa Tash also resigned. She has been hired as the director of curriculum and instruction and federal programs for the Bald Knob School District. This was her second year at Lonoke.

Tackett, who is in his late 40s, is leaving after 17 years of service there.

Both PCSSD directors will report to deputy superintendent Linda Remele. They will oversee principals and direct the implementation of common core standards, the new state curriculum standards being implemented in kindergarten through eighth-grade next school year, according to the district’s website.

“He was a great administrator and took the district to new heights,” according to Lonoke School Board member Mike Brown. “He was efficient, effective and communicated well with the board.”

Tackett resigned recently at Lonoke, but did not say at the time what his plans were.

What will Lonoke do for a superintendent on short notice?

“We’re going to go to work,” Brown said.

Tackett said Monday that his family would continue to live in Lonoke, where he and his wife have spent 28 years together.

“This has been a wonderful place to work. My family still has a vested interest in what happens here,” he said.

Tackett said he believed “completely and wholeheartedly” that the school board would continue to move the district forward in the right direction.

He also said he will work with the board on a smooth transition to a new superintendent.

The position will be posted this week on the district’s website, the state Education Department’s website and the website for the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators.

Tackett has worked for Lonoke for 17 years, including as high school principal and assistant superintendent.

He was employed with the district as the high school principal for one year and as the middle school principal for six years before that.

But he’s no stranger to PCSSD. He began his teaching career at Jacksonville Junior High South in 1988, where he taught for six years before becoming an assistant principal for the district.

Tackett has other ties to PCSSD. Before graduating from Jacksonville High School in 1979, he attended Sylvan Hills Junior High School and Sylvan Hills High School.

He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1984 with bachelor of arts degree and received his teacher license from the University of Central Arkansas. His master’s and doctoral degrees are from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Tackett has an undergraduate degree in French and international studies, a master’s degree in education administration and a doctorate from UALR.

Warren, a retired educator, has worked in education for 33 years as an elementary teacher, principal, elementary supervisor, federal programs coordinator, assistant superintendent and superintendent – all in the Crossett School District.

Warren is a graduate of Crossett High School and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where she received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education. She received a master’s of science degree from the University of Arkansas and a doctor of education degree in curriculum and supervision from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Tackett was promoted to Lonoke superintendent in 2008, taking over for Sharon Havens when she retired. He was her assistant superintendent from 2002 to 2008.

Under his leadership as superintendent, the new $8.4 million, 61,598-square-foot high school that was built with matching funds from the state opened its doors in August and the groundbreaking for the new Gina Cox Center was held in March.

The center is a $9.6 million, 54,000-square-foot multipurpose facility that will seat more than 2,000 people and be used as an arena for performing arts, band classes, physical education, athletics, graduation and other school-related activities. The project is set for completion in fall 2013.

Tackett was also at the center of a controversy that had Lonoke residents up in arms last fall.

In October, he withdrew his recommendation to the school board that high school Principal Phynaus Wilson be terminated for refusing to cooperate with the district’s school-improvement consultant.

The principal had been suspended with pay on Aug. 25 and officials were silent about the reason for more than a month.

Many Lonoke residents and students protested, demanding his return to school.

A rumor that circulated in the small town via Facebook proved true. The rumor was that Tackett asked Wilson to let outside consultants observe classes at the high school, but the two disagreed on bringing in those consultants.

In other business, the school board voted to approve the first reading of a few policy revisions.

The intent of one of the revisions is to embrace technology and focus on teaching students to be responsible when using their cell phones at school.

Matthew Boyle abstained from the vote. He said he disagreed with the district allowing students to have cell phones on campus.

Boyle said, “They’re not using it for education.” He suggested banning them on school property.

Principal Wilson said, “It’s not enforceable to say they can’t bring a cell phone to school.”

He explained that students use their cell phones in the classroom to do things like looking up words when they are writing a paper. Some teachers even incorporate the optional use of smart phones in their lessons.

Also, if the revisions to the board’s cell phone use policy are implemented, drivers will not be allowed to use cell phones while they are on a school bus, except in emergency situations.

Other proposed revisions included raising the number of days students could be absent from 8 to 10, allowing the district to make electronic payments (as long as that payment is not withdrawn automatically) and stating that the principal of a school who has knowledge a student may commit an act of violence can call the police and then central office.

The board accepted the resignations of high school employees Randy Phillips, Danny Wright, Josh Brown, Odes (Tuck) Choate, elementary school employees Christen Blythe, Maegan Chaffin, primary school employee Brenda Moore and middle school employee Kay Mooney.

The board hired Clint Shadwick as the new assistant high school football coach and classroom teacher; Thelma Hawkins, a new bus driver who previously resigned but wanted to be re-hired, and new bus driver Dean Fritz.

Leader staff writer John Hofheimer contributed to this report.