Graduation rate up at PBHS

Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Linda Watson told the school board at its meeting Tuesday that the graduation rate has increased from prior years.

The graduation rate at Pine Bluff High School was 81 percent in 2013, the most recent figures available, Watson said.

Board member Ken Dickson lauded this figure.

“We are heading in the right direction,” Dickson said.

Watson also said she is awaiting complete information on student test scores. Once she receives the complete information, she will release the results.

In other business, the board approved a policy governing district employees’ use of social media with students. The policy forbids teachers from using social media to engage in conversations of a personal nature with students. However, it allows for educators to use social media to communicate with students as an extension of teaching.

The board also discussed — but did not take a final vote on — a proposal to prohibit male students from wearing earrings. Deputy Superintendent Rudolph Howard cautioned against the district engaging in gender discrimination in light of Title IX.

“We have a desire to change our culture in the schools,” Howard said.

Board member Ken Dickson predicted that if the proposal banning boys from wearing earrings were implemented, it might backfire.

“That is going to cause too much drama,” Dickson said.

The board also voted 6-1 to uphold the firing of a district employee.

Board member Andrea Roaf-Little was the lone vote against upholding the termination. The seven board members met in private executive session with administrators before returning for the vote. The employee in question was not identified and did not come to the meeting, board president Piccola Washington said.

During the public comment part of the meeting, Joyce Davis addressed her retirement from the Pine Bluff school district.

“I thank you for the opportunity to have worked here,” Davis said.

She devoted herself wholeheartedly to her students throughout her career, Davis said.

Roaf-Little praised Davis for her unwavering dedication to teaching students.

“Parents like me wish you were sticking around,” Roaf-Little said.

In other business, the board approved a motion to enter in a lease agreement with the Continental Football League to run a concession stand on school grounds.