Leader Blues

Friday, December 12, 2008

TOP STORY > >Board could fire Sharpe in February

Leader senior staff writer

Those Pulaski County School Board members intent upon firing Superintendent James Sharpe will now have to wait until the Feb. 10 meeting.

As he left for work after the marathon executive session on Tuesday, but before the meeting’s end, board member Bill Vasquez of Jacksonville said some board members would be on vacation and unavailable to consider Sharpe’s contract at the
January meeting, suggesting they would instead by the February meeting.

The meeting didn’t conclude until after midnight, but the board suspended the rules and went into executive at 8:07 p.m. even as Assistant Superintendent Beverly Ruthven was preparing to start a Power-Point presentation.

The session was called by board member Tim Clark for purposes of personnel, but with no further explanation.

Those in attendance spent the next 83 minutes wondering about the purpose of the meeting, with teachers, union representatives, reporters and administrators plying each other for information and passing rumors and speculation.

Then, at 9:30 p.m., board member Danny Gilliland appeared in the door to summon Sharpe into the session. The superintendent emerged at 10:20 p.m. and 20 minutes later, after about two and a half hours, the board members emerged but took no action. One TV crew ordered and ate pizza in the interim.

An executive session was on the agenda for the end of the regular session, but upon leaving the meeting, Vasquez explained that the sudden executive session that left those attending abuzz was required so he could participate before leaving for his job.

Vasquez said Sharpe’s contract, which is routinely considered at the December meeting, would not be considered at the January meeting because some board members would not be attending.

He said he didn’t believe there would be a special session to consider Sharpe’s employment.

The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers executive board has had a vote of no confidence in Sharpe, and in recent board meetings, Clark, Vasquez and Gwen Williams have voted to terminate his employment immediately, but failed to get the fourth vote they needed.

With its new makeup, the board seems more inclined to accept a new contract with the Pulaski Association of Support Staff, but board president Mildred Tatum expressed some confusion over which contract with which provisions was the one being proposed.

The board seems prepared to approve the contract if it is for one year with a 1.66 percent pay increase, retroactive to July 1, as described by PASS president Emry Chesterfield.

Consideration of the contract could occur at the January meeting or sooner.

In other business, the board approved a motion declaring the unsafe roof at Clinton Elementary School constitutes “an emergency situation,” allowing the board to select an architect, engineer, contractor and others.

Those students are currently relocated at North Little Rock Assembly of God. Professionals have told the board that repairs could be completed on the roof and children back at Clinton four to six weeks after work begins.

A similar emergency declaration was approved earlier for the similarly afflicted Crystal Hill Elementary.

The board approved a revision to its policy on the types and amounts of expenses reimbursable to board members.

The issue arose out of concern over Williams’ December 2007 AT&T cell phone bill of $833, including $600 worth of roaming charges.

Also the board heard the first reading on new policies that would set rules for election of board officers and their recall, and also for getting an item placed on the agenda.

The board rehired as its attorneys the firm of Bequette and Billingsly, which it fired this fall.