The Pine Bluff School Board hired civil rights attorney and Arkansas State Rep. John W. Walker by a vote of 4 to 1 with two absentions at a board meeting Tuesday night.

The Pine Bluff School Board hired civil rights attorney and Arkansas State Rep. John W. Walker by a vote of 4 to 1 with two absentions at a board meeting Tuesday night.


The board had been without a lawyer since ending its association with lawyer Luther Sutter at an Oct. 2 meeting.


Board members Herman Horace, Henry Dabner, Phyllis Wilkins and Harold Jackson voted for hiring Walker, with board member Leon Jones voting against the measure. Andrea Roaf-Little abstained from the vote.


Board member Ken Dickson walked out of the room at the time of the vote and said he did so because he objected to the process of selecting a new attorney.


"He is a great attorney. I do not have any questions about his qualifications," Dickson said of Walker. "The only question I have about hiring him is the cost and legality of hiring."


Jackson, who is board president, declined to comment. Dabner said he removed himself from discussions on finding a new lawyer.


Pine Bluff School District spokeswoman Kenetta Ridgell said that Superintendent Linda Watson was not involved in selecting the new lawyer.


In other business, the Pine Bluff School Board heard from First Security Bank Senior Vice President Scott Beardsley regarding restructuring debt.


"We can reorganize debt to generate $5.5 million for capital expenditures," Beardsley said. "You must spend money within three years and it must be used to refurbish buildings. It is not a long-term fix. We are not recommending a tax increase."


Beardsley said that the district would need to hold a special election asking voters to approve or reject any proposed restructuring.


Watson presented a fiscal management recommendations plan that looked at saving more than $1 million through removing positions through attrition and closing at least one school, possibly two. Several possible schools were mentioned for closure, but no final decision was made.


The board accepted her plan.