Local leaders submit letter to PB board urging public meeting over superintendent

Several prominent community leaders signed a letter that was delivered to members of the Pine Bluff School Board by local attorney Gene E. McKissic at the board’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.

The letter, addressed to board president Herman Horace and copied to the other board members, requests that the board host a public forum to discuss “recent Board decisions and actions regarding the district.”

“The purpose of the forum would be for the Board and public to engage in open discussion addressing concerns we believe of interest to the general public,” the letter reads in part.

The letter was signed by McKissic, along with Simmons First National Corp. Chairman and CEO Tommy May, Pine Bluff National Bank President and CEO Chuck Morgan, Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County President and CEO Lou Ann Nisbett, former Pine Bluff School District superintendent Frank Anthony, Simmons First National Executive Vice President Marty Casteel and Dianne Jenkins.

The signatories call themselves “constituents and supporters of the Pine Bluff School District.”

The letter asks that the forum be conducted within 10 days from the date of receipt and that notice of the date, time and place be publicized through the media.

McKissic said that the letter was prompted by a general sense of unease in the community about the direction of the school district.

“I think the letter speaks for itself,” McKissic said. “There is a lot of public concern about the direction the district is headed and how decisions are being made. We just want to have an open discussion with the board so there is a two way line of communication.”

“This is not intended to second guess or castigate the board in any way,” McKissic said. “The community needs to have a dialogue because it is a community system. I’m not sure there is sufficient input from the public.”

Nisbett had similar feelings.

“Some of the leaders in the community were concerned and wanted to know why the superintendent was terminated,” Nisbett said. “We wondered, did you really need to do this and if so why?”

“We haven’t had Mr. Payne long and we know that the superintendent search is a long process,” Nisbett said. “I think everyone has this community and its children at heart. We were hoping that the school board would let us know what their reasoning was. We are just concerned members of the community.”

No action on the letter was taken at the school board meeting Tuesday.