Pine Bluff School Board approves one-time employee bonuses


The Pine Bluff School Board approved one time bonuses for all classified and certified employees Tuesday night.

Superintendent Linda Watson said that the bonuses will be paid May 30 and will consist of $500 for all certified staff, $300 for full-time classified employees and $150 for part-time classified employees.

“If any certified or classified employee has been hired after Jan. 1, 2013, the bonus amount will be prorated according to the date of hire,” Watson said.

Watson told the board that her original desire to see across the board raises implemented was thwarted because of numerous expenses that had to be met during the current school year.

“When I came into office I wanted to do something for the classified staff when I saw what they were making,” Watson said. “I also wanted to work with the certified staff because they haven’t had a raise in a while. But we had financial issues that date back to the 2009-2010 school year that had to be settled.”

Watson provided data showing that more than $1.6 million in expenditures were paid out of the 2012-2013 operating account which also funds teacher salaries.

“I have been reviewing financial documents with Pam Winkler, our director of business and finance, to find a way to do something for our employees,” Watson said. “After ensuring that a bonus would be a financially viable option for the district I determined that this was the best way to do something for our employees this year. The staff bonus will cost $427,375 and will come from the operating budget. The increase of $50 per pay period for staff enrolled in the insurance program that was approved earlier this year amounted to $311,400.”

Watson said that between the $600 increase in insurance coverage per employee and the bonus, certified employees will be receiving $1,100 in added benefits this year and full-time classified employees will be receiving $900.

Board member Andrea Roaf-Little asked if the district was sure that the money for the bonuses would not cause any financial distress to the district.

“My job as director of finance is to make sure that the district does not go into fiscal distress,” Winkler said. “I’m a very cautious person and don’t want to do anything to harm the district. We looked very carefully at the district finances when making this decision.”

Roaf-Little thanked Winkler for her answer and then added her affirmative vote to the unanimous board decision to authorize the bonuses.

“I am absolutely in favor of the bonuses,” Roaf-Little said. “I just wanted to make sure the district will remain financially sound.”

Two-tier bus system

The board approved a recommendation from Watson to institute a two tier bus system for the school district beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.

“Right now the district operates one bus run with all grades on the same buses,” Watson said. “We have a shortage of bus drivers and the district has a difficult time finding enough drivers to run the 26 routes. With a two tier bus system we would have an early run for elementary school students and a later run for secondary students. This would keep younger students from having to ride with older students and would allow the same bus drivers to run both routes.”

Watson said that under the new system elementary school students would start their day at 8 a.m. which is the same as it is currently; and secondary students would begin school at 8:45 a.m.

Summer school programs

The board gave permission to Watson to enter into a Memorandum of Understandings with the Boys and Girls Club, the City of Pine Bluff and the Police Department that lay out the division of responsibilities between these entities and the PBSD for the district’s summer school programs.

“We are planning all day summer school this year with the help of these groups,” Watson said. “We will have programs at Oak Park Elementary and Broadmoor Elementary and a pre-K program at Forrest Park. There will also be programs at Belair and Southeast as well as Pine Bluff High School for eighth through 12th graders.”

Watson said that students in grades one through seven will have instructional time in the morning and enrichment activities in the afternoon.

“We will have a total of nine summer school offerings and they will be paid for using Title I and National School Lunch Act funds,” Watson said. “Our younger students in the first through the fifth grades are going to be in grade recovery programs and the older students will be in credit recovery and remediation programs.”

Personnel

The board accepted the resignations of classified personnel Stephanie Ferguson, a paraprofessional at Jack Robey Junior High School effective April 11; and Sharon Smith, a para educator at Pine Bluff High School effective March 22.

The board accepted the resignations of certified personnel David Bryce Albertson, a ninth grade English teacher at Jack Robey effective May 31; Peter Fears, an eighth grade social studies teacher at Jack Robey effective April 1; Jeannie Herald, a 10th grade English teacher at PBHS, effective April 1; and Wilbert C. Redmond, a ninth grade English teacher at Jack Robey effective May 31.

The board accepted the retirements of classified personnel Shirley Dillard and Josie Goodloe, paraprofessionals at 34th Elementary effective May 31; and Ramona McLemore, a nurse at PBHS and First Ward Alternative effective May 31.

The board accepted the retirements of certified personnel Joy Dillard, a science teacher at Jack Robey effective April 1; Denise Gray, assistant choral director and accompanist at PBHS, effective May 31; Barbara Jackson, a literacy coach at W.T. Cheney Elementary effective June 12; JoAnn Kelly, a special education teacher at Southwood Elementary effective May 30; Sharon Lusinger, a kindergarten teacher at W.T. Cheney Elementary effective May 31; and Sandra Kay Pierce, a third grade teacher at 34th Elementary effective May 31.

Finances

Winkler presented the district financial report for the month ending March 31 and said that the district had a beginning balance of $13,360,394; current month receipts of $2,632,208; current month expenses of $3,071,562; an amount available for operating of $16,141,775; and a total balance for all funds of $20,061,565.