Wednesday, November 08, 2017

TOP STORY >> $700 district bonuses

Leader editor

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board on Mon-day unanimously approved $700 Christmas bonuses for all contracted employees and may give another bonus in the spring semester.

The bonuses will be given on Nov. 20, Superintendent Bryan Duffie told teachers in an email Tuesday morning.

“The board and I thank you for the hard work you are doing to help our scholars and help each other. The organization is stronger through your dedication to our school district,” Duffie said.

Kevin Messick, project manager at Baldwin & Shell Construction Company, updated the school board on building progress of the $16.5 Bobby Lester Elementary School on Harris Road and the $66 million Jacksonville High School at the old middle school site downtown.

Bobby Lester Elementary School, which will have a FEMA tornado shelter that’s nearing completion, “has really taken a great turn over the past couple of weeks,” Messick said.

“And then the high school, we’re still playing in the dirt,” he said.

Messick said construction on the school buildings should begin by the first of the year and that concrete footings have already been poured for the main building.

In the coming weeks, a groundbreaking ceremony will be held for the high school and ribbon cuttings for the new multi-purpose buildings at Murrell Taylor Elementary and Bayou Meto Elementary.


Chuck Stein, who advises the district on its facilities, and was previously the state Department of Education’s director of partnership funding and transportation, said he submitted to the state an application for partnership funding for a new middle school and a new preschool at Pinewood Elementary.

Stein said a state inspector has visited Pinewood and the current middle school at the old North Pulaski High School.

He said he will be informed about the status of those funding requests next week.

The district, on Stein’s recommendation, is pursuing state funding to build a new middle school and elementary school at the current high school site off Linda Lane. It is cheaper to build new campuses rather than renovate the old ones under the state’s construction financing system.

Multi-purpose facilities about 90 percent complete, and air conditioning is likely to be added to the projects, he said.


Gregory Hodges, assistant superintendent for elementary curriculum and support services, presented annual report to the board.

He reviewed test scores, the graduation rate and facilities needs.

Hodges said on the whole, the district’s students are only proficient 52 percent in English, 22 percent in reading, 23 percent in writing, 21 percent in science and 26 percent in mathematics.

“Those numbers, of course, are nowhere close to where we want them. We understand there’s an urgent need to improve them. We are making steps to make sure that takes place,” Hodges said.

He said the district is planning to bolster its curriculum and review its teaching strategies in hopes of improving grades.

Other academic improvement strategies JNPSD is pursuing are Generation Ready, a K-12 education consultancy program, and the Arkansas Leadership Academy for all of its principals.

Duffie told the board the state Department on Education will provide the district with advice, based on the level of support needed, to address academic problems.

Hodges said the district is working to improve its discipline rates.

“We realize we do have some discipline issues. We are working on how to address some of the behavioral issues we are seeing,” Hodges said.

Jacksonville High School graduated 194 students, with 24 honor grads, last year. They earned $2.4 million in scholarship offers and their average ACT score was 16.9.

Hodges also presented the board with the annual report by Dr. Tiffany Bone, assistant superintendent for secondary curriculum, student services and desegregation. Bone, who is the district’s second in command, attended the meeting but was suffering from laryngitis so had trouble speaking.


JNPSD is adopting the Second Step Social and Emotional Learning program, which can help students develop “skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, friendship skills and problem solving,” according to

Phonics First and Eureka Math are also new initiatives the district is beginning that may help improve discipline, Hodges said.

Duffie presented his annual superintendent’s report beginning with current student enrollment is 3,875, eight fewer than last year.

Of the ACT Aspire scores, the state’s standardized test, Duffie said, “There’s definitely opportunities for growth using strategies Mr. Hodges talked out,” Duffie said.

“So far, all is well,” he said about the district’s finances, noting that payroll increased $300,000 since last year.

Duffie proposed promoting the district’s events and programs by either hiring a full-time employee to work on public relations or by hiring a marketing firm.

Board members favored having an in-house employee manage those responsibilities. No action was taken.

Amy Arnone is executive assistant to the superintendent and school board and handles the district’s public relations as well.

Cabot School District and the Pulaski County Special School District have directors of communication.


At the end of the meeting, the school board approved 10 expulsions for the remainder of the school year. The students will not be allowed to return until August, when the 2018-19 school year begins, and will be given probation for a year.

The board lengthened three of the expulsions that had been recommended by school officials to be until January, but the board unanimously voted to extend the term of the punishment through the remainder of the school year. At least one incident was reported to police and a school employee was struck by a student in another.

In other business, the board unanimously rejected one transfer request to attend school in Vilonia, and another other to attend school in Cabot was rejected 6-1.

Board member Jim Moore was unanimously approved to be liaison to the Arkansas School Boards Association.

The board unanimously approved a plan to sell its unwanted electronics.

The board unanimously voted to hold its next election in May, declining to hold a November election.

The board unanimously accepted several resignations.

Three members of Murrell Taylor Elementary School choir group, the Titan Trebles, sang “We the People,” a song about the Constitution, at the start of the meeting.