By Lana Clifton
On Dec. 11, the Bryant School District announced that Superintendent Richard Abernathy would be leaving his position of seven years to accept a position as executive director for the Arkansas Association of Education Administrators. At the December regular school board meeting, held Monday, Dec. 21, the board discussed the need to start the process of replacing Abernathy before his contract with AAEA begins on July 1.
Board president Rhonda Sanders expressed gratitude on behalf of the board for Abernathy’s years of service to the district.[more]
“We want to thank you for where we are with the school district,” said Sanders. “While we are going to miss you, we’ve enjoyed the leadership, and we appreciate everything you’ve done. At this point and time, when you are leaving us, we are in a good place, and you’ve been a major factor in bringing us to that place.”
Sanders then referred to a work session the board had held on Dec. 19 to begin discussing the process of finding a new superintendent. Sanders said the board invited McPherson and Jacobson, a consultant executive search firm, to the meeting. According to Sanders, this is the same firm used seven years ago that led them to hire Abernathy. She said the firm used a method in which they involved community, school teachers, staff, parents and others to come up with the right candidates for the school district.
Sanders recommended the board hire McPherson and Jacobson again based on the positive experience of the past search.
“When we were having the discussions, it became very clear that an outside search firm such as this brought a sense of levity to the discussion,” explained Sanders.
She also mentioned the firm had resources to accomplish the search that board members did not have, such as questionnaires and a plan for focus groups. Sanders also recommended using the outside firm because of objectivity.
“Having someone viewed as an outsider that doesn’t have an opinion come in and talk to people, versus the school board doing that, gives folks an opportunity to give their opinion, to state their feelings. We know we are getting genuine, heart-felt input from those around us as we look at this position.”
The proposed contract was set up in phases. Phases 1-4 would cost $11,000 and an optional fifth phase would tack on another $1,500.
After some additional discussion among board members about the benefits of hiring the firm, a motion was made to go forward with the contract with all five phases. The board unanimously passed the motion.
Later in the meeting, Abernathy shared some of his thoughts on leaving the Bryant School District.
“It has been very difficult for me to leave Bryant,” he began, adding that, in his opinion, Bryant schools were the best in the state.
He praised the board. “There are five members on this board who are in it for the right reasons … no hidden agendas. Candidates will see that.”
Abernathy also commended the community of Bryant for coming forward to support the schools.
“I know you will find the right superintendent for the district,” said Abernathy. “It’s been a pleasure, but the greatest pleasure has been working with board members who put kids first.”
In other business, the board looked over a draft of the 10-year facility plan, the result of committee meetings held to come up with a way to accommodate the growing number of students in Bryant. Members of the committee included Chamber of Commerce members, parents, school principals and others.
The plan will be discussed further at a public meeting to be held Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. in the professional development center in building 18 of the high school. The facility plan contains the proposed building and repurposing of current buildings to meet the growing student population. A 10-year facility plan must be turned in to the Arkansas Department of Education by Feb. 1 of each year.
Also on the topic of facilities, Randy Palculict, a representative from the Brooks Jackson architect firm, gave an update on the progress of the high school building. He stated that the construction documents were well on their way to being completed. He also said the entire campus had been looked over to examine its technology, and a thorough analysis had been done.
Several students were recognized for awards at the meeting.
Advanced Placement Scholars with honors were: William Chandler, Kara Cravens and Jennifer Moulton.
Advanced Placement Scholars were: John Bacon, James Beaty, Jonathan Bradshaw, Daniel Cate, Amanda Coppock, Chancie Cormier, Mackenzie Dill, Michael Hoover, Meghan Hutto, Amber Moskow, Willie Rice, Tyler Salminen and Jared Umland.
National Merit Scholars were: Nick Bell and William Chandler.
Board members also approved a change to student handbooks regarding high stakes testing and passed a consent agenda that contained several items the board had already gone over before the meeting.