The Watson Chapel School Board voted 5-2 Monday night to extend Superintendent Connie Hathorn’s contract by two years.
Hathorn was hired on July 1, 2015, on a contract that ran through June 30, 2018. As a result of the extension, Hathorn is currently scheduled to remain at the helm of the district through June 30, 2020. He is earning a salary of $142,353 annually, afforded 10 days paid vacation annually, afforded the use of a vehicle furnished by the district for business and personal use for the length of the contract, afforded a gasoline credit card for local travel expense and all expenses on out-of-town school trips.
The board did not change his compensation.
Hathorn holds a doctorate degree in educational administration and supervision and has been an educator for 42 years.
Board member Sandra Boone and board president Donnie Hartsfield voted against the extension. Board members Ronnie Reynolds, Alan Frazier, Kevin Moore, Goldie Whitaker and Mack Milner voted for the extension.
“I’ve been on this board for 15 years and the norm for Arkansas has been and in many places still is a one-year extension at a time,” Boone said. “He still has one-and-a-half years left on his contract. And this would give him two-and-a-half [years]. I am not comfortable with that, and I won’t vote to extend it for two years.
“There are no perfect people; there’s always room for improvement. And this is nothing personal; it’s strictly business.”
Asked to elaborate, Boone declined to do so, citing personnel matters. But she said Hathorn “has copies of it.”
Hartsfield similarly opposed giving a two-year extension, but he would have supported giving a one-year extension. He does not have any problems with Hathorn’s performance.
“It has nothing to do with Dr. Hathorn,” Hartsfield said.
These developments comes less than one week after Watson Chapel High School was removed from academic distress by the Arkansas Board of Education.
The Arkansas Department of Education defines academic distress as a school that has fewer than 49.5 percent of students who score proficient or advanced in math or literacy on state-mandated tests during three consecutive years.
Hathorn welcomed the two-year extension, vowing to continue to prioritize the education of students.
“It takes five years to have systemic changes,” Hathorn said. “… Now I don’t have to be looking over my shoulder about a contract. I think the staff appreciates that. I think the kids appreciate that because we are heading in the right direction. I am pleased with our staff. Our test scores are going up at all grade levels.”
Reynolds credited Hathorn for improving student performance leading to the high school leaving academic distress. He wishes all board members had voted for the two-year extension.
“I pray things keep going in a positive direction,” Reynolds said.
In other news, Frazier commended Watson Chapel educators, teachers and administrators for improvements resulting in the high school being removed from academic distress. He recognized the late Walter “Ham” Waddell, a former Watson Chapel School Board member.
In disciplinary news, the board voted to expel five students.
Students A and B engaged in a gang-related physical fight, according to the district. Their names were not released.
Student C attacked another student, rioted, and refused to get on a school bus. Student C also brought a knife to the Jefferson Area Technical Career Center.
Student D engaged in a physical fight and rioted, according to the district.
Student E engaged in a gang-related physical fight, rioted, and committed other violent acts against peers.
In other news, Lt. Col. Stan Warrick discussed the Watson Chapel Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He said one common misconception is that the JROTC recruits for the military. The ROTC instills American citizenship by teaching leadership and map skills, hikes in the wilderness, rifle shooting, and drills.
Warrick teaches his JROTC students to enroll in college, the armed forces, or a vocational training program. In the same vein, he advises that having a high school education only is not a recipe for advancement.
In personnel news, the board voted to hire Anthony Bennett as a bus driver, Audrey Johnson as a substitute cafeteria worker, Perry Johnson as a custodian, Sammie Smith as a substitute bus driver, Garry Thomas as a bus driver, and Charline Wright as a part-time secondary teacher.