Dollarway School District voters will be electing a new school board on Sept. 16 after the state took control two years ago.
Candidates running for its seven seats are running for a variety of reasons. Many attended the district or have children attending.
Zone 1 candidates
Sammie Smith Jr. is a longtime resident and graduate of Dollarway. He said all the employees should get a pay raise of 3 percent, all children should be treated fairly and children should be the focus.
“I was part of racial integration in 1969 when I was in ninth grade with the blacks and whites coming together,” Smith said. “We were scared of the white kids and the white kids were scared of us at first. But then we played ball and became friends and came to love each other.”
Fred Toney attended Dollarway schools and is a longtime resident. He said he is concerned about the declining population that is causing a decline in revenue.
“I am a concerned about the education of children in the community,” Toney said. “The well-being of the community in the long term depends on the success of the school system.
Toney said it is alarming that it got to the point where the state took control of the district.
“If I am elected, I would make every effort to comply or exceed state standards on education,” Toney said.
Charles Girley graduated from Dollarway High School in 1980 and has a son enrolled there. His goals include attracting more students to enroll.
“I did not really like the state takeover,” Girley said. “I think we are on the right path now; let’s try to keep it that way. … I am 100 percent behind Dollarway academics and athletics.”
Pearly Stepps could not be reached as of press time.
Irene Murphy sent her seven children to Dollarway and has lived there for 40 years.
“I am still a member of the booster club, raising money for the athletic department,” Murphy said. “I am going to do what I can to make it right. I will Work with the board, as long as it’s right.”
Murphy is unopposed.
Cathy Hunt served a total of 15 years on prior boards in Dollarway.
“I feel experience is important,” Hunt said. “I love the district. My goals are to bring experience, to be a positive influence working with the new board members, the superintendent, the staff and students.
Billy Sanders Langford, Independent, could not be reached as of press time.
Nelson Kimble graduated from Dollarway High in 1982 and used to be a substitute teacher there.
“I am running for the children. I want better relationships between parents, teachers and students. I want to draw some parents back into the district,” Kimble said. “We need more security.
“Dollarway has been in too much distress,” he said. “The state has done a good job of bringing Dollarway back.”
Ruth Bogy could not be reached as of press time.
O.C. Remley was an educator for 26 years. He believes all students learn, although at varying paces. Accordingly, he wants classes to be broken into smaller groups within the same classroom*** based on a child’s pace of learning.
“Everyone must play their part and be within the guidelines set forth by the Arkansas Department of Education,” Remley said. “I believe the superintendent is the head of the district. The school board should make sure that is taking place.”
Gene Stewart served on prior Dollarway boars and has 31 years experience in public education.
“I continue to think that Dollarway schools could be one of the best smaller school districts in Arkansas,” he said. “Wait and see what the superintendent has in mind. See his short-term and long-term goals.
“Dollarway High remains in academic distress. I was hoping the state would have done more. I cannot see the state has done a better job that the school board has done.
“Dollarway has not had a reputation other than athletics in recent years. You have teachers who obviously care,” he said. “[But ] their salaries are one of the lowest in the state.”
Stewart is unopposed for the seat.
Dorothy Singleton said that a successful public school district is built upon community members supporting all the children in the schools.
“Dollarway has the image of a less-than-positive district,” she said. “I want to encourage the community to increase their knowledge about education.
“I consider us to be a liaison to support the superintendent. I will learn the internal functions of the district. The superintendent is responsible for meeting the needs of the community.
“Engagement is the key, and it requires a greater understanding of how schools work,” she said. “If you are part of a school district, your responsibility does not end with your child.”
Singleton is unopposed.
Donald Bruce Robinson was a paraprofessional in Dollarway for 28 years, during which he became knowledgeable about its operations. He said he wants equal treatment of students relative to their hometown.
“I know about the situation good and bad,” Robinson said. “My No. 1 goal is the students.”
Cleollia W. Robinson is a retired teacher who worked in Dollarway for seven years.
“We want the students to improve, starting with an elementary teacher laying the foundation,” she said.
R .P. Bifford said he is concerned about students getting into trouble. Toward that end, he said he wants to examine discipline policies in order to change the trajectory of indifferent students.
“I certainly want to be sure we do not become a fast track to the juvenile detention center,” he said. “… Students who get into trouble, get suspended and get to go home. … it seems like an irreversible cycle. We need to take a hard look at the policies specific to discipline.
“When the state takes over the local district, it suggests they are not competent,” he said. “They take over because of fiscal and academic distress. A teacher cannot make a student learn but a teacher can make a classroom conducive to a learning environment. My principal used to tell us ‘shoot for the stars; you may hit the moon but at least you’ll be up there.’”
***This article has been corrected from its original version, which erroneously described Remley’s position on how classes of students with different abilities should be handled.