The Pine Bluff School Board rescinded an Oct. 3 decision to pay Pine Bluff High School Principal Michael Nellums an additional $27,780, after Superintendent Linda Watson repeatedly warned it could trigger an audit finding and land the district in fiscal distress.

The Pine Bluff School Board rescinded an Oct. 3 decision to pay Pine Bluff High School Principal Michael Nellums an additional $27,780, after Superintendent Linda Watson repeatedly warned it could trigger an audit finding and land the district in fiscal distress.


Nevertheless, the board passed a new motion Tuesday to pay $8,000 to Nellums in 2014-2015 by a 4-3 margin. Board members Henry Dabner, Phyllis Wilkins, Harold Jackson and Herman Horace voted for the motion, while board members Ken Dickson, Leon Jones and Andrea Roaf-Little voted against it.


"I am trying to understand and I do not understand," Watson told the board. "You are talking about an $8,000 stipend or raise. You need to get a legal opinion."


Dabner said Nellums deserved the additional $8,000 for improving Pine Bluff High School, as measured by students graduating at a rate around 82 percent.


"Do the right thing," Dabner said to other board members. "I am not concerned this will leading to fiscal distress."


Jones said he cannot justify granting a 10-percent salary increase to only one employee.


"This is still a raise; you can call it a perk," Jones said. "This is wrong; it is not helping the children. Children are not getting the money."


Roaf-Little said she wanted to be clear about the rationale behind her decision.


"Whether this is a salary adjustment or a raise, we are going over the salary schedule," Roaf-Little said. "I want to be on record seeking legal advice."


The dispute involves back pay that Nellums says he is due as well as an additional stipend. The board previously voted on Oct. 3 to pay $19,780 to Nellums retroactively from 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 and to pay an $8,000 stipend in 2014-2015. In the days after that vote, Watson repeatedly said she will not approve any check to Nellums, and she has maintained that she does not believe she would be following the law if she did so.