PBSD superintendent clarifies reason behind high school probationary status

Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Linda Watson said in a letter of correction dated Thursday that the probationary status assigned to Pine Bluff High School by the Arkansas Department of Education at a June meeting was based on an instructor teaching physical science without the proper certification.

“Official documentation was received from the Arkansas Department of Education a few weeks ago regarding the accreditation findings for the Pine Bluff School District,” Watson said in the letter. “After careful review of information from ADE the probationary status for PBHS was actually due to a teacher teaching Physical Science who did not hold the proper certification.”

Watson had said in June that the probationary status was levied PBHS because an instructor was teaching a survey of fine arts course without the proper certification.

“One PBHS teacher was cited for teaching two years in the area of Survey of Fine Arts without a valid teacher’s license,” Watson said in the Thursday letter. “This course is no longer a requirement and will not be taught during the 2013-2014 school year.”

“The Gifted and Talented and Physical Science teachers who caused the district to be placed on probation no longer work for the Pine Bluff School District,” Watson said in the letter.

All six of the district’s elementary schools were placed on probation after an instructor who provided gifted and talented services to all six failed to meet state licensure requirements, according to the state board in June.

“I am making sure that this August before classes start all of those people who are supposed to be teaching classes have licenses that line up with what they are teaching ahead of time,” Watson said. “If you’re supposed to be in classes required for a particular certification, then you’d better be in those classes.”

Watson said the situation with both teachers that resulted in the standards violations is frustrating to her because they could have been easily avoided.

“I have a district-level employee who provided services to our six elementary schools,” Watson said. “He is a certified teacher who was supposed to take some classes to get full licensure in his field. That person decided to move to another state and didn’t take those classes. They didn’t see the impact their decision would have on the whole school district.”

Watson said the director of the program in question for the upcoming school year will be certified and will fulfill all of their duties.

The schools placed on probationary status are Broadmoor Elementary, Greenville Elementary, Oak Park Elementary, 34th Avenue Elementary, Southwood Elementary, W.T. Cheney Elementary and Pine Bluff High School.

All schools in the PBSD remain accredited but each of the schools placed on probationary status will be open to more serious actions if any of them are found to violate accreditation standards in the next school year.