The Pine Bluff School District Board of Directors, at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, voted to order district superintendent Jerry O. Payne to provide the board with the credentials of any immediate family members who are employed by the district by the end of the week.
The vote visibly angered Payne, who made an appeal to the audience.
“My daughter teaches at Jack Robey but I did not hire her,” Payne said. “She was hired by the prior district administration. The board should direct these questions to the personnel department.”
“Mr. Laurent, did you recruit Kristen Irwin?” Payne asked Robey principal Ronald Laurent. “This is an affront on my family.”
Laurent said that he participated in the hiring of Payne’s daughter before Payne became superintendent of the Pine Bluff School District.
“Members of this board can communicate with me or with the HR department,” Payne said.
Payne’s address prompted an indignant response from board president Herman Horace.
“I’m not going to have any more outbursts in this board,” Horace said. “I don’t care who it is.”
In other business, the board heard a presentation from Denard Davis with educational consultant group D&D Associates.
Davis spoke in place of Andy Hill, a D&D representative who died unexpectedly in December shortly before he was to make a presentation to the board at its regular monthly meeting.
Davis spoke about strategic planning in the educational context and broadly outlined the goals of D&D in the school district.
Board vice president Donna Barnes asked Davis why he had no specific data on what D&D had accomplished so far.
“After listening to what you said, your report seems generic,” Barnes said. “I don’t hear anything tailored to this district. I’m concerned. I thought you would bring something on what you have done. We are safeguarding our district finances and don’t give away money willy nilly.”
Davis said he was giving the report he thought the board wanted to hear.
“The instructions I got were to explain what the consultants are doing,” Davis said. “A report was done. I thought you already had the information.”
Barnes said that the board had received no data from D&D.
“I thought you were participating,” Davis said.
“I thought we were participating as well,” Barnes said.
Board secretary Freddie M. Johnson agreed that the board had not received any data from D&D.
“We have not been made privy to any of this information,” Johnson said.
Payne told the board that Kelvin Gragg, the district’s director of federal, state programs and testing, had a composite report on D&D for the board at the December meeting.
“Mr. Gragg had a composite report to present in December but you indicated that you would not accept it at that time,” Payne told the board.
“I put a report on each one of your desks,” Gragg said to the board. “That was prior to you omitting me from the meeting and asking for Mr. Davis.”
Payne asked Gragg if he could produce more copies of the report for the board and Gragg said that he would have them ready by Thursday.
The board heard a report from Payne on the completion of the school board zone redistricting work done to satisfy the requirements of the 2010 U.S. Census.
“They did not move any boundaries that would affect members of the board,” Payne said. “A copy of the finished zone map will be available for public inspection here at the central office.”
The board heard the financial report from district business and finance director Pam Winkler.
Winkler reported that for the month ending Dec. 31, the district had a beginning balance of $13,360,394.17; with total receipts from prior months of $18,164,843.16 and current month receipts of $2,639,655.94; total expenses from prior months of $13,617,552.91 and current month expenses of $3,351,724.29.
Winkler reported a total available for operating of $17,195,616.07; and a total balance for all funds of $21,353,577.02.
After the presentation of the financial report, Barnes asked for more detailed reports in the future.
“We need more detailed reports,” Barnes said to Winkler. “As far as checks and where the money is going. We need to see where the money is going. It is the board’s responsibilty to keep up with this.”
“We need more than a beginning and ending balance,” Horace said. “We need to see the amount of employee checks.”
The board approved a motion made by Barnes that it be provided with a detailed expense report that showed all individual check numbers issued by the district as part of the monthly financial report.
Pine Bluff Education Association president Ryan Roberts made a report to the board.
Ryan told the board that the PBEA had partnered with the Personnel Policy Committee to assist them in reviewing existing policies throughout the district ro reflect current laws and practices.
Roberts said that the PBEA is a strong proponent of introducing the ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ program into the Pine Bluff School District.
“The point of this program is to say that every child deserves a chance to eat,” Roberts said. “Dr. Tom Kimbrell, with the Arkansas Department of Education, intends to count this time as part of the school instructional day. In an 80 percent free and reduced lunch district like we have here this should be easy to implement. It’s for the kids. I think it’s a great idea.”
PPC president Claudette White made a report to the board.
“Teacher morale is at an all-time low,” White said. “We submitted three proposals to this board in November and haven’t heard back. The board had 30 days to reply and it has now been 60. Our teachers are having a problem with computer firewalls that are blocking materials that they need to do their jobs.”
Johnson told White that her concerns will be addressed soon.
“I can assure you that these will be handled expeditiously,” Johnson said. “You say that it has been 60 days and that is 59 days too long.”
Board member Ken Dickson said that the board will see what needs to be done to get the firewall settings changed to allow teachers to access the internet for the materials they need.