Board vote seals teacher’s firing

Robey Junior High School teacher Deborah Freeman was fired Tuesday night in a unanimous decision of the Pine Bluff School Board.

Superintendent Linda Watson had recommended Freeman’s termination.

Luther Sutter, the district’s attorney, said afterward that the reason behind Freeman’s dismissal was “a student abuse issue.” Sutter did not elaborate, explaining that legal procedure negated immediate additional comment.

No other district officials gave statements, and Freeman was not available for comment.

Freeman’s closed-door hearing required only eight minutes, but the announcement of the board’s decision concluded a nearly three-hour meeting that included almost 90 minutes of executive session discussions.

The initial private period — dealing with personnel actions separate from the termination consideration — lasted 62 minutes. Then, after hinting at a return to the public meeting for a couple of minutes, the board retreated once more for an additional 15 minutes.

The initial executive session also focused on a Legal Shield program that Sutter had asked that the board review for possible voting action. Sutter described the program as a “benefit to minimize legal costs” for a number of district officials who might participate.

After several minutes, Director Andrea Roaf-Little said she considered the matter to be “unethical.” Director Henry Dabner added some reservations, and Roaf-Little moved against deductions being made for the service, which was not fully explained. The motion was carried unanimously.

Among the first batch of Watson-recommended employee actions endorsed by the board were resignations, retirements and hirings. Tabled until the board’s April meeting were 2014-15 academic year administrator recommendations.

The board also gave a collective nod to the purchase of four used automobiles for the district’s technology and maintenance departments at a total cost of $85,500. The vehicles are two minivans and a pair of pickup trucks, model years 2011 and 2012.

Also gaining approval was a new travel policy for board members.