The leadership of Southside Baptist Church announced that they have adopted Jack Robey Junior High School as part of the Partners in Education program being promoted by Pine Bluff School District Interim Superintendent Linda Watson during the regular monthly meeting of the Pine Bluff School District Board of Directors Tuesday night.
Jerry Bell of Southside Baptist Church along with Rev. Matt Leaver and Associate Pastor Paul Huenefeld were introduced by Watson and asked to speak to the board.
“It is our honor and privilege to be in this partnership to transform the climate and culture at Jack Robey,” Bell said. “We plan to transform the teacher’s lounge with new paint and new furniture. We believe that this is a win-win proposition.”
Huenefeld said that Jack Robey is the closest school to the church and fits in well with Southside’s initiative to reach out to the community.
“We want to make an impact and to encourage,” Huenefeld said. “We are going to try to make a different Pine Bluff and a different Jack Robey.”
Leaver began his presentation by emphasizing one word.
“Catalyst,” Leaver said. “A catalyst is an agent that creates change and that is what we want to be. We want to emphasize the values of responsibility, accountability, honor, integrity and respect that are given to us by our Creator. The best way to do that is to be in partnership with one another. We desire to reintroduce Southside to this community.”
The board and the audience in attendance broke into applause at the conclusion of the Southside presentation and many voiced words of thanks to the men as they sat down.
Watson reminded the board that the Arkansas Department of Education has designated five district schools — Pine Bluff High School, Jack Robey Junior High School, Belair Middle School, Greenville Elementary School and Oak Park Elementary School — as priority schools, meaning schools that are performing in the lowest 5 percent in the state.
Watson introduced Laura Bednar, ADE assistant commissioner in the Division of Learning Services, who briefed the board on the way forward.
“It takes partnerships for schools to succeed,” Bednar said. “Schools cannot do it alone. The state of Arkansas received a flexibility waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, which means that Adequate Yearly Progress is now gone. Flexibility does not mean loss of accountability. It simply means that we will now be able to look at the growth of individual students from the beginning to the end of the school year. We are here as a partner. I think we can turn this around quickly but it will mean hard work,though.”
Bednar said that the district will be evaluated in education effectiveness, making students college- and career-ready through common core standards, and annual measurable objectives.
The board approved a recommendation from Watson to buy three new school buses but not before asking a few questions.
“Are we rotating the bus fleet?” board member Chandra Griffin asked deputy superintendent Rudolph Howard. “When we purchase three buses are we getting rid of three that are in the worst shape?”
Howard said that a rotation schedule is being formulated.
“We have about four buses that need to go to the junkyard right now,” Howard said.
Board secretary Freddie M. Johnson asked Howard what types of buses were being purchased.
“We are buying two 72-passenger buses and one special education bus that holds between 36 and 42 passengers,” Howard said.
Howard asked the board for permission to begin pricing 15-passenger vans.
“With the board’s permission we would like to begin looking for a replacement for the van we use to transport the cheerleaders,” Howard said. “That old red van we have now is just about done.”
The board approved a recommendation from Watson to purchase a used truck for the use of security director James Williams at a cost of $24,000.
“He has been using his personal vehicle to do district security,” Watson said.
The board approved a recommendation from Watson to purchase six metal detectors for the district after several questions from the board.
Howard told the board that the district needed four detectors because the current detectors are getting old and not working properly.
“They are mobile and will be used at various sporting events primarily,” Howard said.
Board member Ken Dickson was concerned about whether the detectors were actually supposed to be moved around.
“How are they transported?” Dickson asked Howard.
Howard said that they are moved in district trucks.
“It is very important to see that they are transported correctly,” Dickson said.
Both Dickson and Griffin asked Howard how many detectors would be needed to keep them in the same place and eliminate the need to move them.
Howard said that six would be sufficient and after an amended recommendation from Watson, the board approved the purchase of six metal detectors.