District weighs campus realignment

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series on Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Barbara Warren’s response to complaints about a perceived lack of communication among employees regarding facilities and other issues.

Bringing seventh and eighth graders together on one campus would create a new cohort with a new culture and climate for a group entering a new high school campus, Superintendent Barbara Warren said. She, however, refrained from saying whether this means Pine Bluff and Dollarway High Schools would be consolidated in the near future.

The location of the new secondary school also remains to be determined. Warren suggested at a stakeholder meeting in January the option of building the former Belair Elementary School campus, months after Deputy Superintendent Wanda Van Dyke announced the district had been approved for funding of the new school as part of a plan to replace the images on the current high school campus. on West 11th Avenue.

“I talked to [district leaders] in December on a possible consideration that I wanted to discuss with them,” Warren said. She also confirmed that the leaders met on March 9 and “reached consensus” on the plan she would share at a meeting of the facilities committee, adding that she took into account the questions. security and future financial investments in campuses.

The PBSD operates under the authority of the Arkansas Department of Education, headed by Secretary of Education Johnny Key. The department named Warren as superintendent of the Dollarway and Pine Bluff districts, with the previous appointment made in 2015.

“Mrs. Warren and the District [are] eager to work with the community to improve facilities at the high school that have been neglected over the years, and she announced a facilities meeting later this month to share ideas on the reconfiguration and receive feedback regarding the project of the high school,” said Stacy Smith, ADE Assistant Commissioner. “This feedback will be an important part of creating a final plan that will be submitted to Secretary Key for review.”

HEARING OTHERS

Smith said Warren had a duty to assess operational issues, explore solutions and make recommendations to Key. She added that ADE officials are aware of Warren’s internal conversations with district leaders about possible campus realignment.

“I have the final say on what to recommend to Secretary Key, but I do my best to some extent to consider what they say when recommending something to me,” Warren said.

Citing help from district leaders, she formulated a campus plan she wanted to present before a new school year in hopes of helping the PBSD move forward with its annexation.

“Be careful, decisions have to be made,” Warren said. “Technically, I’ve been the official superintendent of the Pine Bluff School District for this year. There’s a lot you need to do, especially since the first semester has been loaded with annexation stuff. The second semester is scheduled for next year.. As much as people think I am, I’m not trying not to let people speak. Just because there’s a facilities and development committee, I’d like to hear anyone can help us with the district goal. It would have been easier not to say anything, but looking with fresh eyes, I thought, ‘Wow, why not take advantage of this idea?'”

Warren said she understands that some people think she will make decisions regardless of the feedback she receives, but stressed that she will campaign for campus realignment.

“If we get pushed back, I’m not going to fight or beat anyone about it,” Warren said. “Specifically, to build leaders, they have to walk or talk. We came to a consensus that that would be the plan presented.”

Another area of ​​concern was the review of a four-day work week. In discussions with the district personnel policy committee, Warren said, two committees were struck — one to study the pros and cons of a four-day school week and the other to study the five-day week. Committee members, she said, polled teachers and the community for their opinions and recommended a five-day week.

“I thanked the PPC and told them how proud I was of them,” Warren said.

REACTION FROM THE MAYOR

Frustration over Warren’s perceived lack of communication or method of operation spilled out of the district. Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said on a local radio show Thursday that she had been in contact with a state representative and that they are “preparing” to call a community meeting, adding “we are on a state of emergency regarding resolving the issues we are experiencing in the Pine Bluff School District.”

William Fells, Washington’s special projects coordinator, said Friday that the date and time for the meeting had not yet been set.

“At this time, the city will continue to communicate with education officials and community members to determine the most effective ways for the city to support our school system, and we look forward to sharing more information soon. “, did he declare. “In addition, we will inform the press of any public meeting that we are involved in coordinating.”

For now, Warren faces a longstanding concern among other pressing issues that will shape her school district for years to come, and that is how to better communicate with employees and stakeholders in a time when no local school board only oversees the Pine Bluff district.

“I think we can do a number of different things. I think doing the work of the advisory committees increases that kind of direct engagement,” she said. “Making sure the website has the information that people are working for, related to the big topics. One of the things we’re working on that takes time, I wish I could show insight into what the thinking is where we go from here.

“We could surely do a better job in a number of ways. What would better communication look like? I think we need to do better in asking for ideas on this. I would like to, but there aren’t as many decisions as some people think that are made.”

Arkansas Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Stacy Smith (left) said the feedback Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Barbara Warren receives from her campus plan will be important in establishing a final proposal to present to Education Secretary Johnny Key. (Pine Bluff Commercial/IC Murrell)

About Scott Bridges

Check Also

PPC Renewables invites tenders for the construction of the largest solar power plant in Greece

PPC Renewables has launched a call for tenders from contractors to build a solar power …