Dr. Larry Smith, superintendent of the White Hall School District, is one of five candidates the North Little Rock School Board has decided to interview for the job of superintendent of the Pulaski County district. More than 20 applicants filed applications to replace Ken Kirspel, who will retire in June.
Smith said he was contacted about Thanksgiving by an Arkansas school superintendent who is working as a consultant with an out-of-state firm hired by the district to recruit candidates, adding he discussed the potential move with his family and submitted an application one day before the deadline in early December.
Four of the five are currently employed by Arkansas school districts. In addition to Smith, they include Rhonda Dickey, the district’s director of secondary education; Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of the 3,300-student Beebe School District; and Bobby Acklin, the North Little Rock district’s assistant superintendent for desegregation.
The fifth candidate is Kelly Rogers, who grew up in Arkansas and has been superintendent of the 4,250-student Terrell, Texas, Independent School District since December 2007. Prior to accepting the post at Terrell he served five years in the 2,650-student Center Independent School District, also in Texas.
Smith, who has been a superintendent of the 3,010-student White Hall district since 2007, Rogers and Shook, who has been a superintendent since 2005, were recommended to the school board as finalists by the McPherson & Jacobson, an Omaha, Neb., executive recruitment and development firm, to succeed Kirspel at the helm of the 9,147-student district.
North Little Rock board members selected Acklin, an assistant superintendent for 24 years, and Dickey, who has held her current post since 2006, to the finalist list to be interviewed. They were scheduled for interviews Tuesday and today.
Smith is scheduled for his interview Monday, while Shook and Rogers will be interviewed Jan. 24-25.
Smith earns $141,689.73 as White Hall superintendent, with Kirspel paid $152,000 as superintendent of the 8.300-student district.
“They (North Little Rock directors) have been told they won’t get their next superintendent for that,” Smith said Monday during an interview in his office.
He said his career has followed “the normal progress,” with six years here as superintendent, four years at Bryant as assistant superintendent and 10 years as principal in several districts. He has been a classroom teacher for four years and an administrator for 20 years during his career in education.
“This is an excellent school district and the people here have been good to my family,” Smith said. “You always feel obligated when someone expresses an interest in you. That’s what got me to White Hall.
“There are times when you have to look at opportunities,” he added. “You owe it to your family.”
He said he will decide after Monday’s interview how interested he is in the North Little Rock post.
“You want it to be a good fit,” he added. “It may not be a good fit for me out there.
“It’s something I need to explore,” Smith noted. “I need to take a look at it.”
The North Little Rock District was removed from the state Board of Education fiscal distressed list last year and has a major building project underway, Smith said, with a number of consolidations and changes planned within the district.
Of the five, Smith and Shook have doctorates. Smith obtained his doctorate in education administration and supervision in 2003 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2003.