Friday, November 25, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Duffie poised to lead JNPSD

There may be good reason not to hire Bryan Duffie, the current assistant superintendent for support services, as the next Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District superintendent effective July 1, but if so, it is not apparent to us.

Duffie and Robert Ross, superintendent of the Mansfield School District (Scott, Sebastian counties), were the two candidates selected from a field of five to be interviewed for the district’s superintendent position currently held by Tony Wood, former director of the state education department.

Among the search criteria was five years or more experience as a superintendent and Duffie and Ross were the two to meet that standard.

Although we don’t have much information on Ross, he’s apparently a good, experienced and qualified candidate.

Ross has been Mansfield superintendent since 2011. He has also been chief executive of two Texas districts—Sulphur Bluff Independent School District from 2008-2011 and before that the Olfen Independent School District in Rowena Texas. He has worked as a principal and assistant principal in Texas schools dating back to 1989.

But here’s what we think speaks to hiring Duffie to lead the new district through its next phase.

First: He and assistant superintendent for curriculum Jeremy Owoh already meet daily with Wood to deal with running the district and dealing with problems.

Owoh, well liked and apparently very competent, is younger and less experienced than Duffie.

We wrote earlier in this space advocating for Owoh. He didn’t apply for the job. We think that with some more experience under his belt or for a district with fewer needs than the fledgling JNPSD, he’ll make a great superintendent. Owoh was the first full-time hire the district made, after interim superintendent Bobby Lester, Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart and then Wood, and he’s been in charge of meeting the district’s court- imposed desegregation milestones and working toward bringing an academically failing school district into a world-class one.

Before coming to JNPSD this year as an assistant superintendent, Duffie was (coincidentally?) for five years superintendent of Westside Consolidated School District at Jonesboro—2010-2015.

His Ph.D. is from Vanderbilt; by any measure the top rated SEC school academically.

So we suspect that in addition to being friendly and experienced, the guy is smart.

He got his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and his master’s degree in school leadership, management and administration from the University of Central Arkansas.


We would forgive him for doing some undergraduate work at LSU.

Prior to that he was middle school and high school principal in that same district since 2005.

For a dozen years prior to that, he worked for North Little Rock High School-East Campus as a math teacher and trainer, student council adviser and Key Club adviser.

Duffie has a public-service record dating back to 1993, including Kiwanis Club service projects like Boys’ and Girls’ Club mentoring.

His reputation throughout the district seems good. Any negatives have yet to appear.

If there are any, the board is sure to hear of them when they meet in special session Monday to discuss the two remaining candidates.

With his extensive background, we suspect Duffie may have been hired as an assistant superintendent last year with an eye toward the possibility of his being eventual successor to Wood, who has said from the git-go that he was a short termer, helping guide the new district.

Here’s the capper, though.

Duffie’s been active in community service with little interruption since 1993, often as part of Kiwanis Clubs or student council projects such as working with a food pantry.

He was recognized for excellence with the Educational Leadership Award by the University Council for Educational Administration in 2015, the same year he was Arkansas Rural Education Association Superintendent of the Year; School District of Best Practice, 2013; Arkansas Association of Student Councils administrator of the Year, 2011; North Little Rock High School PTA Teacher of the Year and North Little Rock School District PTA Council’s secondary teacher of the year.

A frequent presenter, he has talked to programs and organizations over the years on topics such as Staffing and Enrollment; Best Practices in Hiring Teachers; School Finance and Budgeting and School Board Governance; Louisville Freshman Academies—Merging Academics and Community; Arkansas Code of Ethics for Educators; School Finance Issues for Teachers and Leadership Training for Students.

We want the board to hire the best new superintendent it can. We suspect that’s Bryan Duffie.