A group of teachers at Pine Bluff High School have signed a petition expressing their anger that assistant principal Earleen Collins was passed over for principal in favor of Little Rock resident Michael Nellums, the former head of Mills High School in the Pulaski County Special School District.

A group of teachers at Pine Bluff High School have signed a petition expressing their anger that assistant principal Earleen Collins was passed over for principal in favor of Little Rock resident Michael Nellums, the former head of Mills High School in the Pulaski County Special School District.

Nellums was investigated by the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office in 2010 and 2011 after allegations surfaced that he had conspired with Tim Clark, the president of the PCSSD school board, to frame fellow board member Gwen Williams in 2010.

Nellums and Clark were determined by Larry Jegley, Prosecuting Attorney for Perry and Pulaski counties, to have participated in a scheme that produced a videotape and letter suggesting Williams took a bribe when in fact no such bribe took place.

In his May 21, 2011, report on the case, Jegley termed the actions of Nellums and Clark “shameful.”

PBHS petition

The petition had been signed by 24 teachers as of Monday afternoon, according to Pine Bluff Education Association President Ryan Roberts.

“A lot of the staff are upset that a very highly qualified person from within the district was bypassed for somebody that has a lot of controversy surrounding him,” Roberts said.”I have talked to parents who are concerned about the situation.”

The petition includes a letter outlining the specific grievances of the signatories.

“We, the faculty of Pine Bluff High School, respectfully ask the School Board to reconsider their selection for high school principal,” the petition reads. “Earleen Collins is one of the most professional educators in our district and someone who clearly has dedicated her life to the Pine Bluff School District. She has already trained three other principals on how to run the high school and to suggest she is not qualified for the job is an insult to her and a slap in the face to the work she has done for this district.”

The letter goes on to question the propriety of hiring Nellums as principal, and includes links to several publications that covered the scandal related to Nellums and Clark.

“Our district, our children, and the staff of Pine Bluff High School deserve better than backroom politics and the hiring of friends over highly qualified people from within the district,” the letter concludes. “If we are ever to turn this district around, the right people must be hired for the right reasons.”

Presentation plans

Roberts said that some of the teachers who signed the petition want it to be presented to the board at the public forum scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the district administrative office board room.

“I believe somebody is going to speak about the petition at the forum,” Roberts said. “People have the right to be upset. At a time when Pine Bluff had a real chance to improve its image we hired a candidate from outside the district with controversy surrounding his retirement and pending litigation. The community should be asking questions to ensure the best people are being put in a position to influence these children.”