Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TOP STORY >> New district approves list of principals

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board voted unanimously at a special meeting Monday to hire the five elementary school principals and high school principals named by Superintendent Tony Wood.

The district still needs one more elementary school principal.

The board also unanimously nixed outsourcing food and janitorial services for the 2016-17 school year — the district’s first as a totally stand-alone district.

The move was greeted with applause and enthusiasm by many of the approximately 85 spectators, after board members agreed the district should hire food service and custodial workers for next school year, but could revisit outsourcing in the future.

School board members said they’d been contacted by bus drivers, cafeteria workers and janitorial staff employed at JNP school buildings by the Pulaski County Special School District.

Several in attendance and some board members seemed to feel that outsourcing those jobs could be considered bad faith by people who have been so supportive of the new district.


People serving in those capacities in those buildings will need to apply for the jobs, regardless of whether JNP is doing the hiring or an outsource company is, although it seems to many that, either way, many of the people already doing those jobs for PCSSD would likely be hired.

Jacksonville resident LaGail Biggs, currently principal at Little Rock’s J.A. Fair High School, will be the new district’s first high school principal.

Biggs, a 1985 graduate of Henderson State University, has a master’s degree and further education from the University of Central Arkansas in educational leadership.

She is licensed as a K-12 administrator to teach English/language arts and drama/speech 7-12.

Biggs, in her first year as principal of J.A. Fair College and Career Academies, was assistant principal there for two years and assistant principal at Henderson Health Science Magnet Middle School
for four years prior to that.


The elementary school principals hired were Gary Beck, Myeisha Haywood, Jamie Reed, Angela Stewart and Janice Walker. Wood has yet to name specific principals to specific schools.

Beck graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Currently principal at Bayou Meto Elementary, Beck also worked at the PCSSD Central Office and as principal of Jacksonville Elementary, from 2004-2010.

Haywood has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Henderson State, where she also studied educational leadership. Haywood is currently principal at Taylor Elementary School.

She previously worked as assistant principal with North Little Rock School District and as dean of students at Fuller Middle School, a PCSSD campus.


Reed, a Jacksonville resident and graduate of Jackson-ville High School, graduated from Arkansas State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

She has been assistant principal at Baker Elementary since 2012.

Stewart has a bachelor’s degree from Troy University and a master’s degree from Jackson State University, where she also earned an educational specialist degree.

She is currently principal of Arnold Drive Elementary School and previously served as principal of Bryant Middle School and principal or assistant principal at schools in Alabama and Louisiana from 2005 through 2014.

Walker, who holds a PhD from the University of Arkansas Little Rock she earned in 2003, received a master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a bachelor’s degree from Henderson State University.

Walker has served as a PCSSD principal since 1998.


Jacksonville Middle School Principal Mike Hudgeons, currently a PCSSD employee, was hired by the JNP board at its January meeting to continue in that capacity, but as a JNPSD employee next school year.

The board also unanimously approved hiring Johnny Haley, a retired Air Force information technology systems manager, as the district’s director of technology. He currently holds that position at Academics Plus Charter School.

Haley’s hiring is effective Feb. 15 and continues through next school year.

Tonya Weaver, Lonoke School District treasurer since 1998, was approved to serve as JNPSD treasurer beginning Feb. 3 through next school year.

Her hiring is effective on Feb. 3.


In a discussion about outsourcing, Wood noted that 25 school districts currently outsource food services, and those numbers have risen dramatically over the past three years.

Wood said the district could also outsource substitute teachers, mental health services, speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

But board member Marcia Dornblaser pointed out, “I’ve heard from a lot of people in our town. If there’s any way possible, we need to keep cafeteria workers and bus drivers in our district.”


Carol Miles, board secretary, said the district should hire its own staff for food services, at least for the first year. “Right now, we’re a hypothetical,” she said.

Miles said it would be helpful for the district to run its own food service for a year to see what the costs are.

“We need to be wise and look to the future,” she continued.

“We want to be good stewards with your money,” board member Dena Toney said. “I want to…keep it with the community, but make sure it’s cost effective.”

“I want to ensure we are employing our citizens in Jacksonville,” said board member LaConda Watson. “We need to look down the road; (we) need to look at options.

Gray said, ‘We’ll have more local control if we keep it in house. We have so much going on — the millage vote in February. We have to build trust. There is so much misinformation.

“I’ll not support outsourcing food or janitorial, tonight or in April,” he continued. ”I’m ready at this point to say let’s keep it in house. It’s one less thing. Focus on getting students ready for school. We still have to hire 300 teachers.”

Gray also said Wood, Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart and Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh already had their plates full, without adding further exploration of outsourcing.