Leader Blues

Friday, June 20, 2008

TOP STORY > >Lonoke superintendent stepping down

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Lonoke School District Superintendent Sharron Havens presided over her last regular school board meeting Monday night, where her years of leadership were recognized by the school board, which presented her with a silver pitcher.

Under her leadership, the district has built a new middle school, started a new field house, started a vocational center in the old middle school and made plans for extensive additions and remodeling.

She and Assistant Superintendent John Tackett, who has been hired to replace her, have year-by-year promoted changes implemented by the board to identify and correct shortcomings, first in the education of groups of students and individual students and most recently a similar program to identify and correct problems of individual teachers and administrators.

Havens will preside over a special 7 p.m. Monday, June 30 meeting primarily to approve changes in board policy and to designate Tackett and board members Rick Pennington and Ray Kellybrew to sign checks on behalf of the district.

In the past, the president of the school board has been the board designee, but a $4,500 charge recently implemented by the licenser of the software for changing the names of the signers led the board to instead choose members with three or four years left on their terms.

While on the topic of school board terms, Havens reminded the board that the filing period for the September school board elections opens at noon, July 11 and closes at noon July 18.

Mike Brown intends to file for reelection to the zone 1, position 4 seat, he said Tuesday.

Miles Lilly, appointed when Jimmy Threat moved out of the district and resigned, is not eligible for election to the zone 2, position 1seat.

The board approved the required proposed budget of expenditures for the next school year, kind of a rough draft of the actual budget. The budget was $12.99 million. The about half of that--$6,498,970—is for salaries and benefits.

The budget included increases of between 2 percent and 5 percent in most categories, Havens told the board, and a 25 percent increase in fuel costs.

The board also approved a low bid of $48,420 for weights for the new field house weight room, including installation.

Dirt work on the new field house will come in about $9,000 under budget, Havens said, money that will help offset the cost of the weights.

With little discussion on the final reading, the board approved changes to the student handbook for all four schools.

A more ambitious cell phone policy originally proposed for the middle school and high school was scaled back after consultation with legal counsel for the Arkansas School Board Association.

That attorney, Paul Bloom, told them they were asking for trouble, including freedom of speech questions, if they tried to attach prohibitions on downloading content onto YouTube and other parts of the internet.

He advised the board to simply stick to its prohibition against bringing cell phones to school.

“You lose when you try to control what they do with them,” he said.

“We’ll enforce it as written,” Tackett said. “We can ban them from campus and collect them (when we see them,) Tackett said.

The board emerged from executive session to hire four new teachers, accept the resignations of five and to terminate custodian Brenda Venable.

Teachers hired were Kathy Franks for fifth-grade math and science, Danielle Tringali, for middle school and high school vocal music; and in high school, Greg Burl, special education and assistant football coach; and Jason Bowles, social studies.

Josh Robinson was hired as a district computer technician.