Friday, October 25, 2013

TOP STORY >> McDaniel joins education board

Leader staff writer

Retired Col. Ronald McDaniel was appointed recently as the 12th and last member of the new Pulaski County Special School District’s Community Advisory Board.

The state Board of Education last month approved the board for PCSSD, which has been taken over by the state and is in year three of fiscal distress.

Act 600 of 2013 gave the state authority to run districts in fiscal distress for as long as five years, and said — since the school boards were dissolved by the state — the state should appoint advisory panels to give the public feedback.

The PCSSD board will help Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell make decisions by giving him recommendations. The board’s first regular meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in the boardroom at the district’s central office, 925 E. Dixon Road.

McDaniel, when he heard about the appointment, said, “Well, I thought that is going to be quite a bit of hard work. I’m not unaccustomed to that.”

As a resident of Jacksonville’s Northlake subdivision, he was asked to apply for the vacant Zone 3 position on the board, McDaniel continued.

“I just want to do everything we can to get the kids a good education, a basic education where they can read, write, count and be good citizens,” he said.

All three of McDaniel’s adult children graduated from PCSSD. Two are Jacksonville High School graduates and another graduated from Mills High School in Little Rock.

McDaniel’s 40-year military career began with the Air Force and ended with the Arkansas Air National Guard.

The former 189th Maintenance Group commander, McDaniel was the first African-American full-time employee promoted to colonel in the Air National Guard.

As an active-duty airman in the Air Force, McDaniel was assigned to the 314th Medical Squadron in 1972 — the same year he moved to Jacksonville.

The Crossett native joined the Air National Guard in 1979. He was assigned to the 189th Medical Squadron.

In 1984, McDaniel was commissioned as a consolidated aircraft maintenance officer.

He was considered a part-time, or “traditional Guardsman,” in 1986 when C-130Es came to the base.

In 1994, McDaniel transferred from his job with the postal service to work full time in the Guard. He retired last year.

He is also a member of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps, the driving force behind the city’s efforts to detach from PCSSD and form an independent school district.

McDaniel is president of the Sertoma Club. He has been a Sertoma Club member since 1984.

The club, along with the Jacksonville Walmart Supercenter, used to host the Sam Hoover 3-on-3-basketball tournament annually.

For several years, McDaniel helped coordinate both the youth football and the 3-on-3 tournaments. He now helps out with the club’s father and daughter dance.

McDaniel is also chairman of the Jacksonville Civil Service Commission and of the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center’s board.

He and his wife, Shirley, celebrated their 41st anniversary in May.

They have four grandchildren.

The advisory board has met once for a special meeting, which was held last Monday to make recommendations for two waiver requests.

Board member Daniel Gray, who is also a member of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps, said district employees can request waivers if something comes up in their background checks.

Gray, a third-generation realtor, represents Zone 1 and lives in the Foxwood subdivision.

The board recommended granting one of the waivers and denying the other, he said.

Gray said the Arkansas State School Board Association provided three or four hours of training to the board members a few weeks ago, with the exception of McDaniel because he hadn’t been appointed yet. McDaniel said he would receive the same training though.

Gray said the board members talked about the role they would play and how it is not that of a school board. The advisory board, for example, will not have the authority to fire or hire a superintendent as a school board does.

The advisory board’s main function will be to advise Kimbrell, especially concerning three types of hearings – those that are available because of the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, those that concern teacher grievances and those that concern a student discipline issue that may result in an expulsion, Gray said.

He added, “My goal is to serve in that capacity and to provide some guidance from a parent’s perspective.” His two sons, a sixth grader and a third grader, are PCSSD students.

Gray said the board would also offer reports on PCSSD’s fiscal distress status.

The district’s chief financial officer, Bill Goff, will give the members an update on that topic during the November meeting, Gray said.

The other local board members — Sherwood residents Tjuana Byrd and Margie Anne Snyder — did not return several calls from The Leader.

Byrd is an attorney who runs his own Little Rock law firm. Snyder is a retired teacher.