Local control and improved facilities on wish list for Dollarway superintendent

Dollarway School District Superintendent Bobby Acklin has a wish list that includes getting the district out of state control and improving facilities, but he says he cannot accomplish those goals by himself.

Acklin was the guest speaker at the monthly Coffee with the Chiefs program, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, on Tuesday at St. Paul Baptist Church.

“We don’t have a school board so once a month I meet with the state education commissioner, who has to approve everything I do,” Acklin said. “Eventually we will have a school board because if we’re supposed to have a school board, we need to have a school board.’

Acklin said he hopes that eventually the district can convince the state education department, which took over the district two years ago, that it has no reason to keep the district under its control.

“We’re almost there,” he said.

Regarding facility improvements, Acklin said that when he came to Pine Bluff and looked at the other districts, he saw that they had “great” facilities.

“Somebody gave up on Dollarway and waited for it to go away,” he said.

Specifically, he said it was upsetting when Dollarway High School football team went 13-1, had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and had to play their games somewhere else because “the field was too bad to play on.”

Acklin was appointed by the state education department as Dollarway’s superintendent in 2013. He said he learned that some of what he had heard about the district was not true.

“We have some great teachers but it was used as a hiring agency for buddies and friends,” he said. “The finances were not good, there was no organization, no protocol.”

Realizing that he needed help, Acklin said he started looking for good, self-motivated people and started to bring them in. He said he also recognized that he would need to get rid of some personnel.

“You can’t teach now like you did 10 or 20 years ago,” he said. “You’ve got to do what’s necessary to give students the ability to compete in a global society.”

Acklin said the district has an absenteeism problem, but not with the students.

“We have people under contract who still won’t come to work” Acklin said. “If they’re not in the classroom, they can’t teach.”

Acklin said he is looking at the Teach for America program, which would allow the district to get teachers for two years.

‘I would rather have a good teacher for two years than a bad teacher for the same period of time,” Acklin said.

On the drawing board is a plan to ask for a millage increase to improve facilities in the district, which Acklin said probably will happen next year.

“We want to give the community the chance to make the district what they want it to be,” Acklin said. “A no vote means they want everything the same while a yes vote will mean they’re ready for a change. If the community wants the Dollarway School District to be special, they need to put their money where their mouth is.”