Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TOP STORY > >Board considers booting Sharpe

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

With the jobs of Superintendent James Sharpe and several top administrators perhaps hanging in the balance, the Pulaski County Special School District Board took five minutes in an emergency meeting Tuesday night to hire a lawyer to review their contracts and the board’s power to hire and fire the staff members.

By a 4-0 vote, the board hired Sam Jones of Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates and Woodyard law firm to do that review.

Jones is already the board’s attorney in matters dealing with desegregation.

Board vice president Bill Vasquez convened the meeting, board member Tim Clark made the motion and treasurer Gwen Williams and Charlie Woods voted for it.

Board president Mildred Tatum was out of state and members Shana Chaplin and Danny Gilliland were absent.

Jones’ orders are to review those contracts of “the superintendent, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent, executive directors and directors of PCSSD with reference to board policies, contract language and the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal

Act in order to advise the PCSSD board of the legal authority to act on personnel issues concerning those positions.”

Jones has been asked to report back to the board before its special meeting next Tuesday.

“The board wants to know what can we do and when can we do it?” said Vasquez.

The current concern stems from engineering reports that found the roofs of two district schools, including Clinton Elementary School in Sherwood, questionable.

Some people think the report of the deficiencies took too long to reach the superintendent, who then evacuated Crystal Hill Elementary students to portable buildings at Maumelle Middle School almost immediately and the evacuated Clinton School students beginning Monday. Their classes will be held at First Assembly of God Church in North Little Rock beginning this morning until further notice.

“The district is working on behalf of your children to be sure they are out of (school buildings) with questionable roofs and in somewhere where they can work on their education,” said Vasquez. “Mr. Sharpe took care of that.”

Sharpe has hired Dave Floyd, retired director of the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, to look into the process by which administrators learned of the problem and acted to safeguard the children.

Sharpe said Tuesday night after the meeting that Floyd’s report should be completed before the special meeting.

The executive board of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers reportedly had a unanimous vote of no confidence in Sharpe’s handling of the matter when they met Saturday.

PACT, the district’s powerful teachers union, has been a vote short of getting its way on the board for several years, but with the resignation of Pam Roberts from the board and the unopposed election of Tim Clark, the teachers now have a 4-3 majority on the board—Williams, Vasquez, Clark and Tatum.