The Pine Bluff School Board voted Thursday to hire former Little Rock School District superintendent Linda Watson as interim superintendent effective June 4 pending contract negotiations.

The Pine Bluff School Board voted Thursday to hire former Little Rock School District superintendent Linda Watson as interim superintendent effective June 4 pending contract negotiations.

Watson said she worked for the Little Rock district for 24 years and was superintendent until January 2011.

Suzette Anderson, the school district director of special services, was appointed interim superintendent Tuesday after the board voted to fire Superintendent Jerry O. Payne effective immediately.

The board met for an hour and 15 minutes in executive session Thursday before emerging and voting to hire Watson. The board then returned to executive session for four minutes to discuss her contract.

“We will take the contract to the district attorney [Luther Sutter],” Board President Herman Horace said. “The attorney, Dr. Watson and the board president will get together on this and we’ll go from there.”

Payne was hired by the school board in June 2011 to replace retiring superintendent Frank Anthony. At some point the relationship soured, and since February the board has made a series of moves to fire Payne at the end of the school year before ultimately deciding to fire him immediately Tuesday.

A 26-point letter outlining their reasons for firing him was made public at that meeting. The list included accusations that Payne improperly spent funds and made personnel decisions without board approval.

In other business, Horace advised the board that it needed to take a vote on school board re-zoning.

“The Arkansas School Boards Association has notified us that we must take a vote on zoning by June the 8th,” Horace said. “The requirement is found in Arkansas Code 6-13-631.”

Horace then said that the board had the option of selecting either a five single-member school district board, a seven single-member school district board, or a seven-member school board with five members elected from single-member zones and with two at-large members.

“I move that we accept the seven-member zone that is in place,” board vice president Donna Barnes said.

The board voted unanimously to accept the existing seven-member zone.

The board also voted to refer all certified employee contracts back to the interim superintendent.

Board secretary Freddie M. Johnson attempted to clarify the situation.

“To clarify, these are contracts that are in some type of dispute or having to be redone,” Johnson said. “These are all of the certified employee contracts.”