Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TOP STORY >>District to name its chief Tuesday

Leader staff writer

After three months of interviews, the next superintendent of Cabot schools will be announced Tuesday during the school board meeting, board president David Hipp said Friday.

A total of 22 people, including five from within the Cabot district and 10 from within the state, applied for the position that became available after current superintendent Dr. Frank Holman announced his resignation in March. Four of the five Cabot applicants work for central administration: Teresa Chance, June Elliott, Charlie Donham and Robert Martin. The fifth is high school principal Dr. Tony Thurman.

Of the original 10 in-state applicants, one, Gary Masters from Marked Tree, withdrew his application some time ago; eight applicants have fewer than 1,300 students in their district; and only one, James Simmons of Conway, is the current chief of a district that is about the same size as Cabot.


Chance has been the director of curriculum for Cabot schools since 2000. She is also a past Cabot Middle School principal (1995-2000) and Eastside Elementary School principal (1994-95), and was assistant principal for Southside and Eastside Elementary from 1992 to 1994. She taught for 13 years before moving into administration.

She said she applied for the position because she wants to see Cabot schools continue to grow and remain at the top of education by providing a quality education for all students and preparing them for the future. Elliott is the director of federal programs for the district. She has been out of town throughout the week and unable to provide any additional information.

Donham is the director of transportation for Cabot schools and the transportation-discipline administrator. He was the director of the districtís alternative learning environment (A.L.E.) from 2005-2006 and is a past principal of Cabot Junior High North (1998-2005). He taught and coached for 17 years before moving into administration, 14 years with Cabot, and three with Forrest City schools.

Donham said he applied for the position because he wants to contribute his knowledge to maximize the student-learning experience and continue to make Cabot schools the best in the state. Martin has been the director of career and technical education for Cabot schools since 2005. He was the director of A.L.E. from 2003-2005. He came to Cabot in 1996 to take the position as principal of Cabot High School; Thurman replaced him. Of Martinís 33 years in education, he spent eight of those teaching and coaching.

Martin said he applied for the superintendentís position because he desires a genuine commitment between the school and the community and wants to see the district continue to grow and continue the level of education it provides. Thurman became CHS principal in 2003. He is a past Cabot middle school principal (2000-2003) and was an elementary school principal for McGehee schools from 1998-2000. He has spent five years teaching and coaching before going into administration.

Although he says heís happy being the high school principal, Thurman applied for the superintendentís position as a way to stay in a district he loves and work with all the students in the district.


Applicants from districts within Arkansas include Wayne Fawcett of Bald Knob, Bruce Evans of Piggott, Dr. Randy Byrd of Brinkley, Joseph Cornelison of Horatio, James Simmons of Conway, Mickey Billingsley of Bauxite, Dr. Larry Bennett of Green Forest, Rhonda Bradford of Mayflower, Jim Loyd of Paris and Gary Masters of Marked Tree.

Fawcettís district, Bald Knob, has three schools and a total enrollment of 1,217 with 103 kindergarten students. Evans is on administrative leave from Piggott schools until June 30. He said he took his leave before Cabotís position was open because he was ready for a change.

Piggott has two schools and a total of 919 students with an additional 94 kindergarten students.

Evans said Cabot is a solid district that provides for and turns out quality academicians and he wants to be part of such a system. He has 10 yearsí experience as a superintendent and a total of 25 years in education.

Byrd, with Brinkley schools, oversees three schools and 792 students plus 57 kindergarteners. A superintendent for almost six years, Byrd said he would bring experience, test-score improvements and financial stability to the Cabot district.
He taught for 10 years and has spent 18 years in education.

Cornelison has three schools in the Horatio district; 754 students plus 54 kindergarteners. He has 12 years superintendentís experience and is convinced that one of the bigger issues facing Arkansas schools over the next few years is the issue of facilities. He believes it will take someone with experience coupled with vision to solve the problem. Cornelison has spent 22 years in education as teacher, counselor, principal and superintendent. Simmons is the only Arkansas applicant from a district relatively the same size as Cabot.

The Conway district includes 14 schools with 8,057 students, plus an additional 717 kindergarten students. He said Cabot is an outstanding district and he would like the opportunity to lead Cabot to continued greatness. Simmons has five yearsí experience as superintendent and a total of 30 years in education. Billingsley with the Bauxite district oversees two schools and 1,142 students plus 103 kindergarteners. Bennett, superintendent at Green Forrest, has three schools in his district of 1,156 first- through 12th-grade students and 99 kindergarten students.

He said what he knows of the Cabot district is that it is progressive and does great things for kids and is supported by the Cabot community, qualities that make the position attractive.

Bennett said he would make sure all the stakeholders, from parents to teachers and administrators to community leaders, are involved in the decision-making process if selected for the job. He has 17 yearsí experience as superintendent with a total of 34 years in education, 29 years were spent in Texas. Bradford, who has already been replaced as superintendent of the Mayflower district, oversaw three schools and 907 students with 64 kindergarten students.

Loyd, with the Paris district, oversees three schools and 1,077 students with 96 kindergarteners.

Masters, superintendent of Marked Tree schools, said he withdrew his application from the Cabot superintendentís position some time ago. Marked Tree has two schools, 600 first- through 12th-grade students and 53 kindergarten students.


Seven applicants from outside Arkansas applied to be chief of Cabot schools: Pat Travis from Detroit, Texas; Jake Honea from West Columbia, Texas; Bob Biggs from Pleasant Hope, Mo.; James Dubus from Pittsburg, Texas; Michael Mitchell from Corsicana, Texas; Chris Carem from Gastonia, N.C.; and Richard Wilde from Castle Rock, Wash.

New chief

Whomever the board has chosen to replace Holman to head the almost 9,000 strong Cabot district will make between $135,000 to $175,000 depending on prior experience, education level, and the size of a district they are coming from, if applicable.

The new superintendent, who would receive a three-year contract and start work July 1, would also receive $5,000 for moving expenses. Holmanís last day is June 30 when he becomes superintendent with the Lincoln Consolidated School District near Fayetteville.