Pine Bluff School Board assesses security enhancements


The Pine Bluff School Board voted Tuesday to authorize interim superintendent Linda Watson to come up with an estimate of the cost of placing cameras and communications equipment at Pine Bluff High School and Jack Robey Junior High School as well as the rest of the district’s campuses.

Although the shooting deaths at an elementary school at Newtown, Conn., Friday wasn’t mentioned Tuesday night, school officials in Arkansas have been discussing enhanced security measures this week.

“We will be looking at funding,” Watson said during the board’s regular monthly meeting. “The money would come out of the capital outlay fund.”

Board members expressed their determination to come up with plans for permanently increasing security in the school district.

“We are looking at fencing in the Pine Bluff High School campus along the lines of the fences that surround Southeast Arkansas College,” said board vice president Kenneth Dickson. “We will probably be doing this with other schools in the district as well. We have to limit access to protect students.”

Board member Henry Dabner added that the board is exploring the idea of adding cameras to hallways, near restrooms and outside areas to campuses that already have some cameras in place.

“We will also look at bringing cameras to elementary schools that don’t have them now,” Dabner said. “All of these cameras will provide surveillance that can be viewed by the superintendent as well as the police and fire departments.”

Board member Phyllis Wilkins said that cameras could also be placed inside classrooms.

“We are seriously looking at safety issues and we are exploring a number of options,” Wilkins said.

Board president Piccola Washington said that surveys are being distributed to building principals to determine what security measures are currently in place as well as what measures are needed.

“If we don’t have the money that we need we will come forward with the possibility of a millage proposal,” Dabner said.

Superintendent search

The board voted to hire the executive search firm McPherson and Jacobson to begin the process of selecting a permanent superintendent for the school district.

“We need to have a superintendent who is not an interim,” Washington said.

Wilkins made a motion to announce the opening of the superintendent position to the public followed by a motion to hire the search firm.

“I move that we employ McPherson and Jacobson as the search firm to assist us in our search,” Wilkins said.

Board secretary Leon Jones spoke to Watson, who has been serving as the interim superintendent several months.

“Dr. Watson I just want to say that your work for the district has been wonderful and that this decision is in no way a reflection on you,” Jones said. “We look forward to you being an active candidate for the superintendent position.”

Watson thanked Jones for his comments.

Math coordinator

The board approved the hiring of a district-wide K-12 math coordinator.

“The district has a literacy coordinator who oversees and facilitates the literacy program,” Watson said. “The district needs a mathematics coordinator whose main focus is development of the district’s math program in support of teaching and learning.”

Watson said that the position would be paid for through Title I and NSLA funds which are currently available.

Policy adoption

The board approved a recommendation from Watson to adopt policies, including the procedure for adoption of school board policy, and a policy allowing the superintendent to mediate legal cases up to $10,000 and to authorize the purchase items up to the $10,000 limit required for bidding with the caveat that the superintendent will confer with the board in emergency situations.

Personnel

The board approved a series of personnel recommendations including the hiring of certified personnel David Albertson as an English teacher at Jack Robey Junior High effective Dec. 10, replacing Gwendolyn McGhee who resigned; William Collier as a math teacher at Pine Bluff High School effective Dec. 4; and Michelle Dotson as an English teacher at Pine Bluff High School effective Dec. 17, replacing Virgil Cato who transferred.

The board accepted the resignation of certified personnel Gwendolyn McGhee as an English teacher at Jack Robey effective Dec. 17 and retroactive to Nov. 8; and classified personnel Sharon McCuller as an APSCN data entry clerk in the administrative center effective Dec. 12; and Pamela Wood as an attendance clerk at 34th Elementary effective Dec. 21.