Friday, December 09, 2016

EDITORIAL >> New leader for JNPSD

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board this week picked Bryan Duffie, 46, to lead the district over the next three years, beginning July 1. Duffie, who is now assistant superintendent, was offered the top job by a 6-0 vote with one board member absent.

Five people had applied for the job, but only Duffie and Mansfield District Superintendent Robert Ross met the requirement of working for five years as a superintendent and advancing to the interview phase.

Duffie, who has been a teacher, principal and superintendent, is the right person to succeed Superintendent Tony Wood, who is retiring at the end of the school year. Wood is the fledgling district’s second superintendent, having succeeded interim Superintendent Bobby Lester, who helped midwife JNPSD into existence. Duffie brings a can-do attitude to the job as the district faces numerous challenges, not least of them has followed creation of the new district from Jonesboro and wanted to be involved in the process, he said.

Duffie joined the district July 1 as assistant superintendent for support services and oversees transportation, maintenance, child nutrition, technology, security, health services and finance.

Duffie will be paid about $160,000 a year plus moving expenses from Jonesboro, where he worked as superintendent of the Westside Consolidated School District for five years. Duffie’s wife and two sons will move to Jacksonville, although he’s not required to live here.

“Dr. Duffie has been involved in the daily operation of the district and will not require months to get up to speed,” Wood said approvingly of his successor.

He brings an enthusiastic attitude to the job, which includes an ambitious building program and implementing federal-court orders on integrating its teaching staff. U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall this week told the parties in the long-running desegregation case to resolve the unitary staffing issue or prepare for trial in September.

Duffie appears up to the task. “It is just an opportunity to be involved in community-based effort, some of it unprecedented,” he said after accepting his new job. He’s impressed by the community support behind this effort, saying, “You don’t always see that everywhere. The community is coming to us to volunteer.”

“We want this to be one of those school districts of choice,” Duffie said. “We’ll develop programs, students and community as a whole. We’ll build a great program for all the kids.”

He’ll do that by hiring the right person for the right position to have a positive impact. “There’s been so much support among the staff. If we stay on that path, we’ll be alright,” Duffie predicted.

Duffie identified facilities as the biggest thing to tackle including the construction of a new high school and elementary school almost immediately and more new elementary schools in the next decade, which should go a long way toward satisfying Judge Marshall.

The new district has a deep bench, including chief of staff Phyllis Stewart and Jeremy Owoh, the other assistant superintendent. Owoh will be the key person to make academic programs more effective, along with training a more diversified teaching staff and attracting new students who will earn the admiration of parents and Judge Marshall, who will then free the Jacksonville district from decades of court interference and letting it concentrate on education.