PB school board votes to hire Watson as superintendent

The Pine Bluff School Board voted unanimously Thursday night to approve a full employment contract and hire Linda Watson as superintendent.

Watson had been serving as interim superintendent.

The move was preceded by a vote to rescind the motion the board approved in December to hire executive search firm McPherson & Jacobson to help find a permanent superintendent for the district.

“I don’t think we should use McPherson & Jacobson and I move to rescind the December vote to use them as a search team,” board secretary Leon Jones said in a motion that was seconded by board vice president Ken Dickson.

Dickson then made his motion.

“I make a motion to offer Dr. Watson a permanent superintendent position the terms of which will be discussed at a later time,” Dickson said with Jones offering a second.

Watson was noticeably moved the board’s actions.

“Before we proceed I’d like to say thank you because you didn’t have to do what you did,” Watson said. “I am humbled by your show of support for the work that we have done in the district to date. We will work together going forward for this school district.”

Board member Andrea Roaf-Little asked for and was granted permission to speak.

“I apologize for deviating from the meeting agenda but I just want to say that we as a board want to listen to the people and we heard you,” Roaf-Little said. “We heard and appreciate the input we received from you at the open forum last week.”

Roaf-Little was referring to the meeting in which several patrons and staff members encouraged the board to hire Watson and continue moving the district forward under the new administration.

School closing plan

In other business, the board approved a request from Watson to be allowed to work with her administration to prepare a report that includes information the board will need to make an informed decision on which district schools will be closed to address the continuing loss of students from the district.

“The Pine Bluff School District has lost at least 100 students a year for the past nine or 10 years,” Watson said. “We cannot continue to survive financially operating all of the schools we have now. The district had between 6,000 and 7,000 students several years ago and now we are down to around 4,500 in K-12. We will prepare a detailed plan that includes financial and enrollment information to allow the board to decide on a school closing plan effective with the 2013-2014 school year.”

Watson stressed that no decisions regarding school closings have been made yet.