Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

TOP STORY > >New chief hired for schools in Lonoke

Leader senior staff writer

It’s likely to be more of the same at the Lonoke School District, and board members must like it that way because Monday night they unanimously offered the superintendent’s job to Assistant Superintendent John Tackett, 45.

Current Superintendent Sharron Havens has announced her retirement effective at the end of this school year. She said on Tuesday that Tackett had worked closely with her for the last six years as the district undertook an ambitious building program and worked to improve the academics.

“It will be an easy transition,” Havens said. “He’s a very visionary person, looking for the future.”
The board considered applications from 20 job seekers before interviewing Tackett and the other finalist, Geary Brown, currently the Texarkana assistant superintendent, on Monday evening.

The credentials of the other applicants were impressive, with nine of them holding doctorate degrees and four others in doctorate programs. “He’s been a great person to work with,” Havens said of Tackett. “Very professional and knowledgeable whether its about the curriculum or facilities. He’s very well rounded.”

Tackett, a Lonoke resident since at least his high school days, has been the assistant superintendent since July 2002. Before that, he served the district as high school principal for one year and middle school principal for six years.

Tackett also served as principal at both Jacksonville-area junior high schools. As assistant superintendent, he’s been responsible for everything from instruction to the facilities master plan, Havens said.

He was unavailable for comment Tuesday because he was at a recruiting fair looking for teachers. Tackett has an undergraduate degree in French and international studies, a master’s degree in education administration and a doctorate from UALR, where he is an adjunct professor. Tackett is associate pastor for Apostolic Church of Lonoke. His parents live in Lonoke and his two children attend school in the district.

“He cares a lot about the community and school,” Havens said. In other business, the board voted unanimously to hire a Lonoke firm to keep the district’s 38 acres of grass mowed this year. Jared Skinner’s Lawn and Leaf Service’s bid of $29.47 an acre per cutting was the fifth-lowest bid, but in recent years, the low bidders have either quit or proven unsatisfactory midway through the contract, leaving the board members to question the lowest of the bids.

Last year, Skinner stepped in when the original bidder and his workers were unable to keep up with the demand, and the board decided they wanted to reward him for his good work by giving him the contract. Bids ranged from $17.17 an acre to $55 an acre.

Although Havens originally recommended the low bidder for a three-month trial period, she told board members that Skinner’s recommendations were all very positive. “There’s no question that Jared’s work is the best quality work we’ve had,” she said. Board member Mike Brown made the motion to hire Skinner, which was unanimously approved.