Business as usual for West Memphis School Board
Board deadlocked on mold removal at elementary school
By DON WILBURN
If the actions of the members of the West Memphis School Board over the past couple of months could be described as “waking a sleeping giant” when it called down the wrath of the local community after the inexplicable firing of Superintendent Richard Atwill, then it would also be apt to say that the giant has gone back to sleep and it appears that the board has gone back to business as usual with little brushback from the community.
“It was all very anti-climatic after everything that has happened,” said one concerned parent who attended the meeting this past Tuesday at West Junior High, “They basically met, approved the new attorney and that was it.”
Even with board member Anthony Hampton absent from the proceedings the board managed to pass several items on the agenda, the first and most pertinent being the hiring of a new school board attorney in Larry Jackson after his predecessor resigned last month.
Several of the other issues looked at had been tabled for at least two months including the approval of the posting of two Athletic Director positions, the purchase of four new buses (three normal and one Special Education bus) at a cost of nearly $625,000 and the expulsion of two students, one each from East Junior High and another from the Academies of West Memphis. The board also approved a salary of $55,000 for the procurement of a Talent Development Manager whose responsibility it will be to recruit and retain new teachers for the district.
One issue that did raise eyebrows was the tabling, again, of mold removal from both Weaver and Richland Elementary. The board once again found themselves deadlocked into their old factions with a 3-3 tie vote.
In what could also be described again as “anti- climatic” the minutes from the April 18 school board meeting in which Superintendent Atwill was unceremoniously fired have finally been posted to the board’s website and reveal only what was previously suspected; all of the board’s discussion and decisions regarding the termination were allegedly made privately and behind close doors in the board’s “catch all” Executive Session.
According to the minutes, after Mr. Atwill handed out a Professional Growth Evaluation to all members an Executive Session was called by board member Joiner in which he, President Faulkner, Atwill, Joyce Gray, and Anthony Hampton attended. Upon emerging from the session a call to a vote to terminate Atwill was made by Joiner, seconded by Gray and passed. It had also already been decided to buy out Atwill’s contract and appoint Willie Rhodes as interim superintendent.
Locked in a 3-3 tie due to the absence of board member Anthony Hampton, the West Memphis School Board tabled the vote on a lingering mold issue at one of the district’s elementary schools. The board also failed to hire a new high school principal for the Academies of West Memphis.
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