Arkadelphia News

Arkadelphia school board raises wages for classified staff; Where are students getting concurrent credit?

This post has been updated to correct Deborah Stephens’s title as principal at Perritt Primary School.

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

The Arkadelphia Board of Education listens to Superintendent Nikki Thomas at Tuesday’s meeting. Pictured, from left, are Matt Johnson, Ida Tramble, Blake Bell, Thomas, Kenneth Harris Jr., Gina White and Jeff Root. | Joel Phelps/The Arkadelphian

Classified staff members at Arkadelphia Public Schools — bus drivers, secretaries, paraprofessionals and custodians — will earn $1 more per hour after the district’s Board of Education gave unanimous approval of a raise Tuesday.

Superintendent Nikki Thomas said the raises average out to roughly $1,500 more per year for these employees, and to about $500 per year for bus drivers. Thomas said also that the district will offer a $500 sign-on bonus for new bus drivers in its recruitment efforts.

RELATED: Arkadelphia schools respond to bus driver shortage

Thomas said bus monitors will also be employed for safety on school buses.

District mechanic Shane McBride said drivers had asked for a $2 raise from the previous superintendent, so this move was “a step in the right direction.”

Here is a rundown of classified salaries with the included raise:

Classroom personnel: 15 base steps ranging from $17,570 to $23,712 for paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers earn $11/hour; transportation personnel: 16 base steps ranging from $6,785 to $9,804 (depending on the route length) for bus drivers, transportation coordinator’s salary ranges from $17,558 to $25,547, and the mechanic’s salary ranges from $22,969 to $32,012; custodial and maintenance: 17 base steps ranging from $12.33 to $15.63 for custodians and from $15.02/hour to $21.48/hour for maintenance assistants; office personnel: 19 base steps ranging from $16,054 to $22,707 for building secretaries and $17,069 to $29,686 for administrative assistants.

CLICK HERE to see the district’s full salary schedules.

The school district employs 70 classified positions. Of those, 56 are paid from the district’s operating budget from state and local foundation funding, and 16 are paid out of federal or state categorical funds.

Campus improvements and concurrent courses

The board heard lengthy reports from each campus principal about school improvement plans for Perritt, Peake, Goza and AHS. Board president Blake Bell said he wants to see next year’s improvement plans include measurements that indicate whether the goals are being reached.

“Are we remaining the same?” he said. “All I want to know is, really, are these things that we’re doing with these programs, are they working? Are we improving?”

Board member Matt Johnson posed an unrelated question, directed at AHS assistant principal Trent Smith, about AHS students earning concurrent credit through Henderson State University. Smith said, bluntly, that it has been “very difficult” working with Henderson lately. He added that AHS students now earn concurrent credit through Arkansas State University-Three Rivers in Malvern via online or in-person courses. “We’ve got a good thing going through ASU-Three Rivers now,” Smith said.

The flailing partnership between Henderson and Arkadelphia Schools, Bell opined, is likely the reason a larger percentage of Arkadelphia Promise Scholarship recipients this year are signing intent letters to attend Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

The three top colleges AHS graduates say they’ll attend this fall are HSU, with 19 seniors; SAU, with 18 seniors; and Ouachita Baptist University, with 15 seniors. The Promise signing ceremony was scheduled Wednesday afternoon.

Personnel report

Following a 15-minute executive session, the board reconvened in public and approved the following personnel recommendations:

William Jeremy Bell, director of federal programs
Rose Easley, English teacher, AHS
Ashley Collins, elementary teacher, Peake
Karli Ferguson, elementary teacher, Peake
Maci Burris, middle school teacher, Goza
Shelby Weems, elementary teacher, Peake
Cherrel MaGee, elementary teacher, Peake
Deborah Stephens, principal, Perritt
Cathy Brooks, secretary/bookkeeper, Goza

Charlotte DeWitt, library media/Peake

Other business

• The board heard an update from Nabholz on construction progress at the K-4 Peake Elementary campus. The project is on schedule for completion by summer 2024, and residents can expect new progress daily.

• Bud McMillion provided an instructional report for AHS, outlining how faculty will implement its Professional Learning Community in instruction.

• Graduation is this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Duke Wells Gymnasium.

• The board began a 30-day review of policy updates.

• Thomas reported an enrollment of 1,794 pupils. The district reported 1,827 students at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. This time last year the district had an enrollment of 1,799, Thomas said.

• Board member Gina White inquired whether vandalism in AHS restrooms is under control. She was informed that conditions have improved.

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