Friday, June 02, 2017

TOP STORY >> JNPSD gives retiring chief big farewell

Leader senior staff writer

In the same Jacksonville Community Center room where Tony Wood first met area patrons two years ago as the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District’s first full-time superintendent, friends, co-workers and luminaries on Friday afternoon gathered to see him off as he prepares to retire June 30.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson re-placed Wood, the former state education commissioner, with Johnny Key, making Wood available at the perfect time to succeed interim Superintendent Bobby Lester and help birth the new district.

At least 65 people attended the surprise sendoff, including Key, former Gov. Mike Beebe, School Board president Daniel Gray, vice president Ronald McDaniel and board members Jim Moore and Deena Toney.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher presented the superintendent with the key to the city.

Former Gov. Mike Beebe spoke of Wood’s low-key demeanor, which belied his affable, organized, informed and headlong approach to the challenge of creating the first new public Arkansas school district in anyone’s memory.

Beebe spoke of Wood’s habit of involving parents and teachers — those who would have to implement it, in creating new policy. (See editorial, p. 8A.)

“There’s been a ton of progress,” over those two years, Wood said. “We didn’t know what to expect. We were starting at ground zero.”

“I knew what had to be put in place,” he said. “We’ve got a good foundation, lots of good people to continue that effort.”

“There’s been a lot of progress made. It has truly been a work in progress. It’s going to take some time to fully materialize. It doesn’t happen in two to three years,” he said.

“We’re all in Tony’s debt,” said Gray.

Wood brought with him Chuck Stein, the former director of partnership funding and transportation and also recommended Brian Duffie as an assistant superintendent.

Duffie will be superintendent beginning July 1.

Knowing who to hire was “part of what Tony brought to the table,” Gray explained.

Among the 67 people who signed the guest book were Beebe, Key, PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess, state Facilities and Transportation director Brad Montgomery, North Little Rock Superintendent Kelly Rodgers and long-time supporters of the new district Tommy and Pat Bond.