The Pine Bluff School Board voted Tuesday to table a discussion regarding its recent reduction in force action until a later meeting.
Due to a decline in enrollment, board members voted at the last meeting for a RIF and reorganization of personnel that would affect over 40 employees. The district released a list earlier this month of those affected by the RIF as far job reorganization duties, but school officials did not make clear if there would be layoffs.
In addition, the school board indicated Tuesday that the previous list was not in its final form and could be subject to change at a later date.
The district's enrollment declined from 4,701 students in 2012 to 3,720 students in 2017, according to an October 2017 report by the board. These are the most recent enrollment statistics made available to The Commercial by the PBSD.
“We have reached a mark of $3.3 million and that is not including the insurance,” PBSD Superintendent Michael Robinson said at the last meeting. “We have reached out to fiscal and I'm waiting for the feedback they will provide to us. We only met the minimum threshold, and hopefully, we won't lose any more scholars.”
In other news, board members briefly discussed how they plan to improve the district's annual Arkansas Department of Education report grades for the years to come.
In addition to the “F” rating given to Pine Bluff High School, Broadmoor Elementary, Southwood Elementary and Thirty-Fourth Street Elementary in the Pine Bluff School District were also given “F's.”
Jack Robey and Belair middle schools both received “D” ratings, along with W.T. Cheney Elementary.
“This is really a great opportunity for us to be able to look at our school report cards and see the areas we need to grow in,” Robinson said. “We will be meeting with each principal and school to go over those report cards and develop plans at each school, then developing a district-wide plan that will help to move this district forward.”
In other news, board members voted unanimously to replace hazardous, flammable freezer equipment at Southwood Elementary, W.T. Cheney Elementary, and Forrest Park/Greenville Elementary School.
Pearl Matlock, PBSD director of Food Services, explained that her team has been providing maintenance to the three freezers for a while and due to the equipment being over 30 years old, the efforts have no longer been successful.
“The equipment is old, and we have been piecing it and piecing it, we've put new valves on them and maintenance has been called many times,” Matlock said.
She said that the campuses need a total of three freezers, 16 utility carts, and three tilting braising pans, which she received bids for. The total of all equipment is $53,910.55 not including shipping and taxes.
“There is nothing worse than a worker trying to prepare a meal for our students and the equipment fails,” Matlock said.
Board members also discussed getting business insurance that will cover equipment failure in the future.
In other business, the board gave special recognition to several teachers, support staff and scholars.
Among other scholars, Kalaya Evans, a PBHS senior, was recognized for her recent signing of a letter of intent for the Jackson State University cheer squad. Evans is a three-year letterman of the PBHS cheer squad and has served as a captain during her senior year.
Rose M. Smith, Forrest Park/Greenville Elementary School, was recognized as April 2018 Teacher of the Month, and Jimmy Fisher, also at Forrest Park/Greenville Elementary School, was recognized as April 2018 Support Staff of the Month. They each received awards at the meeting.
Although not in attendance, Courtney Bilbrey and Timothy Bell (Jack Robey Junior High), Henrietta Nelson and (Belair Academy ALE), Chianti Evans and Tina Perry (Thirty-fourth Avenue Elementary), Mary Williams and Latecia King (W.T. Cheney Elementary), Georgia Boulton and Teresa Whitted (Forrest Park/Greenville School) were recognized as the March 2018 Teachers of the Month and Support Staff. Teachers and support staff are selected by the school's principal.
Robbie Williams with the PBSD Health and Wellness Department presented an Arkansas Department of Education Award of Excellence to Freddie Jolivette, Parent Center Coordinator and Wellness Committee co-chair, for dedication and contribution.
She also presented an appreciation award to Robinson on behalf of the PBSD for his support and dedication of the health initiative program.
In other news, Larry Matthews, director of the Pine Bluff Department of Economic and Community Development, provided the board with an update on the Southwood Elementary sidewalk project.
He showed pictures and design layouts, saying that the project has finally begun and consists of the improvement of sidewalks on the side of 42nd and Fir, extending onto the Southwood Elementary School campus. New cellular safety lights will be installed for crossing with the project being expected to last approximately three weeks.
Matthews informed the board to let him know of any sidewalks at schools that need improvement due to the state providing a grant for improving sidewalks at any school within the PBSD.