Pine Bluff School Board hears words of support

The Pine Bluff School District Board of Directors heard words of congratulations and support tempered with admonitions to remain focused on the students and steer clear of personal agendas during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.

District resident and parent Gregory Little said he wants to see the school district return to the level of student achievement it once had.

“I am a parent and a concerned citizen,” Little said. “I am proud to see that we have a new board. I grew up here in this school district and I don’t remember having the type of problems then that we have had recently. We are not electing you to sit in a position but to take care of business. I pray you all make great decisions for our children. It starts now. It doesn’t start tomorrow. It starts now.”

District parent Kymara Seals told the newly constituted board and interim superintendent Linda Watson that she believes a fresh start is at hand.

“I stand here to say to the board and to the superintendent that as a parent in the district we look forward to working with the board and the superintendent as a team,” Seals said. “It is our prayer that the board and the superintendent stay focused on the students. We hope there is no drama on this board. With five priority schools in the district there is a sense of urgency. Student achievement is the focus and the priority. If it is not about the students then it is not a priority.”

Classified Personnel Policies Committee president Jewelette Courtney welcomed the new board members.

“We extend our thanks to the previous board members and wish them well in their future endeavors,” Courtney said. “To the new board members we would like to welcome you and to assure you that we work in parallel with the laws of the state of Arkansas. You, too, have now been charged with that responsibility.”

In other business the board approved the submission of the district Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan to the Arkansas Department of Education by the superintendent as required by law.

District director of federal and state programs Bernice Martin-Russell briefed the board on the information contained in the submission.

“Every district has to submit a school improvement plan,” Martin-Russell said. “The report is used to assure the district’s eligibility for Title I, Title II A and National School Lunch Act funds. This report was due Oct. 1 but the state allowed for the report to be submitted and then taken back to give the board the opportunity to approve the statement of assurances. All schools in the district are Title I except for Pine Bluff High School. The district received $2,836,000 in Title I funds this year.”

The board heard the financial report ending Sept. 30 presented by district director of finance and business Pam Winkler.

Winkler said that the district had a beginning balance for the month of $13,391,509; current monthly revenue of $2,929,591; current monthly expenses of $3,025,969; amount available for operating of $11,947,671; and total balance for all funds of $16,703,892.

The board approved a series of curriculum policies including Academic Content Standards, Academic Content Standards/Benchmarks, Curriculum Guides, Remedial Instruction, and the Academic Improvement Plan.

Watson said the policies were needed because of the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and because they had not been reviewed for updates or additions since the 2010-2011 publication of the Board of Education Policy Manual.