The Pine Bluff School Board voted Thursday to look into hiring a contract attorney to review contracts and stipends.

The Pine Bluff School Board voted Thursday to look into hiring a contract attorney to review contracts and stipends.


Board President Harold Jackson made a motion in light of a discussion on stipends at a special meeting Thursday night. Board members Phyllis Wilkins, Henry Dabner, Andrea Roaf-Little, Herman Horace and Jackson voted in favor of the motion.


The board previously gave an $8,000 stipend to Pine Bluff High School Principal Michael Nellums in addition to his contract. Jackson mentioned this decision in the motion but also said that he wants to review all employees.


"We need someone who will be neutral," Jackson said of the contract attorney. "I am trying to clear any confusion. I want to review all the stipends. Were they given by a superintendent or by the board? This should close the door on the lack of clarity."


As far as the projected monetary cost, Jackson did not set a figure. Instead, he said he will identify contract attorneys that he considers reputable and inquire about their rates.


Depending on their rates, Jackson said he will or will not make a recommendation. As far as a time frame, Jackson said "as soon as possible."


Prior to the vote, board members reviewed a report of stipends information that the district has used since 1998. The report did not specify which stipends are current.


Director of Business and Finance Pam Winkler said that the Arkansas Public School Computer Network does not allow old information to be removed. Therefore, the report does not reflect current stipend information, she said.


Board members attempted to ascertain which stipend information was current, versus data from the past. The report included a range from $250 in a travel stipend to a $38,018.86 administrator stipend. But it did not specify the years or employees in question.


Wilkins said she wants to revisit stipends.


"There are exorbitant amounts of money," Wilkins said. "We do not see stipend information because it is not attached to contracts. Just because we had it in 1998 does not mean we have to act on it in 2014."


In other business, Superintendent Linda Watson presented a report showing employees whose salaries increased by at least 5 percent from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014. Reasons for the increases included people being hired after the start of the fiscal year, people earning a new degree or people missing time because of illness.