Friday, August 23, 2013

TOP STORY >> First week of school called a big success

Leader staff writer

Area school districts report that the first week of school, which started Monday, was a success.

Cabot’s enrollment re-mained steady. The most recent count was 10,144. The comparable 2012-13 total was 10,139.

The Lonoke School District saw a decline. On Wednesday, the count was 1,793. At the end of last school year, it was 1,815.

Deborah Roush, spokeswoman for the Pulaski County Special School District, said its enrollment figures would be released next week.


PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess spoke at a recent new teachers’ luncheon hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

He said, “We’re excited about the new year. We have an awful lot going on. We’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm about the new school year, a lot more than before. We’re doing a lot of things to try to remind people we care about their children.”

Roush said, “We had a great start to the school year.”

She added that although definite figures aren’t available yet, it appears that enrollment at Jacksonville Middle School may have increased.

Lourdes Goodnight was recently hired as the new principal there. Roush said the increase “would make us really happy because she’s working so hard.”

Roush added, “Our biggest issue was folks using their cell phones in the school zones.”

She explained that using a cell phone in a school zone has been against the law since 2011.

With children excited about seeing their friends again, they can run across the road without thinking to greet each other and exchange hugs, Roush explained.

She wants to remind people that “it just takes one second of taking your eyes off the road” to hit a kid.

“That’s the last thing we want to happen,” Roush said.

She also highlighted a community partnership that helps students at Clinton Elementary School in Sherwood and Jack-sonville Middle School.

Roush noted that Arkansas Office Products gave 100 backpacks — 50 to each school — packed with supplies for economically-disadvantaged kids whose families might not be able to afford a new backpack or any backpack at all.

There were facility improvements at a lot of schools, Roush continued. Most of the buses ran on time, and school started on time, she said.

Roush visited some classrooms on Monday and was pleased to see students reviewing the rules and then settling into lessons.

“I saw kids engaged in learning already. By the afternoon, it was really business as usual,” she said.

There was some traffic congestion but that will probably clear up after the first week, Roush added.

She explained that many parents drive their children to school the first couple of days or the first week. Then the children take the bus the rest of the year.

“It has been, for most departments, the smoothest start they’ve seen in years,” Roush said.

Bill Barnes, the new principal at Jacksonville High School said this week was better than he anticipated. “Teachers are teaching...I’m going to have a happy weekend,” he added.

Homer Adkins Preschool Principal Lisa Peeples agreed. She said, “We had a fabulous back to school. Everything was so smooth. My parents have been so cooperative. We’ve got great students this year. My staff is wonderful. Everything is falling into place.”

Peeples added that she wanted to thank the Jacksonville Police Department’s resource officers for helping with dismissals.

Clinton Elementary Prin-cipal Jackye Parker said, “The first week of school was very smooth, orderly and there seems to be a lot of excitement from teachers and students. We’re off to a good start for a school year that has all the makings of being most productive.”

Jose Brazil, the principal at Sherwood Elementary, said there have been no problems.

Northwood Middle Principal Kirk Freeman, who has worked there the past four years, said, “This is my best start ever.”

Warren Dupree Elementary Principal Janice Walker said, “We’ve gotten off to a great start. Some of the minor challenges we were faced with last year I haven’t seen this year.”

Bayou Meto Elementary Principal Gary Beck said, “Everything seems to be running smoothly, better than in the past.”


Tonya Spillane, coordinator of middle level and freshmen programs, said during the Cabot School Board meeting on Tuesday, “The kids knew there was an expectation. They are going to work hard to play hard. We have no choice but to continue this energy the rest of the school year.”

She was talking about how Junior High North and Junior High South held pep rallies on the first day. Two principals even dressed in costume for the occasion.

“We could not have done this without a superintendent who lets us have fun and challenges us to find new ways to motivate” students and teachers, Spillane added.

Dawn Peeples, the new principal at Middle School North, said, “We had a great week. It was busy. Everyone just worked together. I was told they would take care of me when I got here. They have been wonderful.”

Deputy Superintendent Harold Jeffcoat announced that everything was going well with the new $26 million freshmen academy project.

Bids for the final phase of that construction will be let on Sept. 5, he said.

Superintendent Tony Thur-man said a professional film crew from Minnesota would be in Cabot to shoot a national video about heat as it affects athletes and how to prevent and treat heat-related problems.

The board was told that new teachers were asked during orientation, “Whose dream will you make come true this year?”

Paraprofessionals, instead of being pulled out of classes for training, were able to do so before school started.

Board member Ricky Hill said he received a couple of e-mails about Common Core, a way of teaching that is more student centered and focused on going deeper into reading, language and math. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there,” Hill said.

He was told that the district has produced a video that aired on the school’s Channel 3 before school started, and that it will be shown again soon.


Superintendent Suzanne Bailey said more definite student count would be available after Labor Day. She noted that administrators are working to find out the reasons behind decreasing numbers.

The pre-kindergarten program has 53 students.

Lonoke has a new alternative-learning environment program called CORE — Committed to Other Routes of Education. The district has partnered with the Carlisle and Hazen school districts to provide the program.

Seven students are enrolled in CORE so far.

Bailey thanked parents, guardians and community members for being cautious as they drive through school zones. She asked them to watch for students walking and crossing from one location to another.

Bailey also thanked them for not talking on cell phones, or sending text messages in school zones when children are present. Using a cell phone in school zones is against the law.

She was glad that drivers are not passing cars while waiting in the lines or passing school buses when the flashing red lights are on and the bus’s stop sign is out.

Bailey continued, “Please come eat in our new high school cafeteria, where we have a variety of food offerings and a colorful and inviting environment to enjoy a meal. Lunches are $2 for students and $3 for adults.”

She also said, “We are also working on our football field parking areas, ticket booths and replacing the James B. Abraham sign back on the field in preparation for the upcoming football games. We hope to see everyone at our extra-curricular events throughout the school year to provide support to our students and the staff. The first home football game is Thursday, Sept. 12 for junior high and Friday, Sept. 13 for high school.”

The Homework Hotline, a free tutoring program, will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Carver Campus.

The program will start after school and be open until 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Students may ride the school bus to the Carver Campus, but parents must pick them up from the campus.

Bailey said, “We are looking forward to a wonderful school year that has already had a super beginning. We will be working hard to make the necessary improvements at each grade level and in each department so that our students can achieve maximum success. We will also be working hard to continue the successes we have achieved at Lonoke schools with the goals that have been set in place.” She added that the district’s website is being improved every day.

Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook did not respond by press time.