Friday, August 12, 2016

TOP STORY >> New district is looking to Monday start

Leader senior staff writer

More than 30 years after Jacksonville-area residents first began working toward a school district of their own, the fledgling Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District doors will open for the first time Monday morning for an estimated 3,840 students, according to Bryan Duffie, assistant superintendent for support services.

Lunch is MaxStix with marinara sauce, Romaine salad with veggies and ranch dressing, peaches and milk for students big and small.

Before selling the buildings to JNPSD for about $10.8 million, the Pulaski County Special School District stripped and waxed floors as needed and sanded and refinished gymnasium floors.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess has supported the Jacksonville detachment and has helped many residents realize the dream.


“I believe we’re in really good shape,” Duffie said Thursday. “There are always things to do—small repairs.” But he said he doesn’t know of any major repairs.

“Teachers, custodians, principals and maintenance staff, are tending to last minute, final touches,” he said.

There are still a few final hires needed, Duffie said, but Superintendent Tony Wood has hired some as substitutes who are likely to be confirmed at the September board meeting.


The district also has an arrangement with Kelly Enterprises to supply substitute teachers, custodians and other workers as needed.

Duffie said staff members, including teachers, community volunteers and volunteers from Little Rock Air Force Base and local churches chipped in to help ready the buildings.

Duffie said some rooms or areas may still need painting, but most painting is done.

Teachers have been coming in since early July to work on their rooms.

“I’m not aware of any major plumbing problems,” Duffie said Thursday. “We replaced a water heater today.”

The cafeterias are ready to go and Sysco foods has already made deliveries.

“Cafeterias are ready to go. Sysco did deliveries today and some food service employees will be working this weekend,” he said.


Principals did walk-throughs at their schools Friday, making sure everything is ready.

The bus drivers met Thursday morning, discussing safety procedures and were due to have run their routes.

Duffie said the routes might have to be fine-tuned.

“For the most part, teachers have books and computers in the right rooms.

The drivers are excited, and see an opportunity for something new for Jacksonville.


Technology director Kevin Martin has been working on laptops and desktop computers for teachers, working on the computer networks and making sure Wi-Fi is up and running.

“Not every building is fully functional on that,” Duffie said.

“That’s through the state network,” he said. A fiber network needs to be expanded.

“The bus fleet’s in good shape and the mechanics have been working. Every bus passed state inspection.”

There are still some business accounts that need to be set up and the principals have begun building their budgets.

Duffie said it would be a while until all students are enrolled, noting that the 3,840 enrollment number was from around Aug. 1.

On the individual school pages on the JNPSD website, the principals spoke about the upcoming year.


“We are creating an academic climate for young minds to do great things,” said Jacksonville High School Principal LaGail Biggs. “We are providing opportunities for all students to prepare for their future.”

Middle school Principal Mike Hudgeons said, “It is our mission to provide the students entrusted to us with the best effort we can give and the best educational opportunities we can provide.”

The middle school is in academic distress and will work to improve, he said.


The theme this year at Arnold Drive Elementary is “Be a Superhero,” according to Principal Janice Walker. “We will encourage students to be H—Helpers of a school and community, E—Enthusiastic about learning, R—Respectful of others and O—On-Task learning and modeling good citizenship.”

“Active participation by parents, grandparents and other family members is the number one indicator of a child’s school success,” according to Bayou Meto Elementary Principal Gary Beck.

He encouraged families to become involved in the PTO, to become a tutor or a volunteer and to work with the child’s teacher.


“The enthusiasm around the building is energizing, and we look forward to this educational journey with you and your child,” said Warren Dupree Principal Jamie Reed.

Pinewood Elementary Principal Karen Norton said her team is “dedicated to building strong, positive relationships with all members of our school community to ensure that all of our students reach their full potential.”

Taylor Principal Myeisha Haywood said her team “is committed to providing all students an equitable and quality instructional program focused on reading, language arts, math, science and social studies while infusing the arts into daily instruction.”

Tolleson Principal Angela Steward said her teachers and staff are excited about beginning a new journey with our families and students as part of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District.