Huntsville School Board hires assistant superintendent

Huntsville Superintendent Dennis Fisher (left) addresses the school board at his first board meeting Monday.

The Huntsville School Board approved the hiring of Cheryl Gall to serve as the district’s assistant superintendent at its monthly meeting Monday.

Gall, according to her resume, has worked at the Arkansas Public School Resource Center as a professional development/curriculum and leadership coach since 2013. She worked for various districts and agencies before then, including the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative, ACCESS Academy, the Arkansas Pediatric Facility, Little Rock Lab School and the Lincoln, Prairie Grove, Cabot, England and South Side school districts. The earliest job listed on her resume is as a special education teacher with the South Side School District, and in addition to a special education teacher, she has worked in her career as an instructional facilitator and a literacy specialist.

According to her resume, she has a Master of Education degree, earned in 2011 from Arkansas Tech University, and a Bachelor of Science in Education, earned from the University of Central Arkansas in 1990. Her resume also states that she is licensed as a curriculum program administrator and in special education (pre-K through 12th grade) and social studies (5th-8th grades).

The recommendation was made to the board by Huntsville’s new superintendent, Dennis Fisher, who began with the district on July 1. Tammi Davis, who served as interim superintendent from last summer until June 30, was planned to be moved back to the assistant role she held prior to former Superintendent Clint Jones’ resignation last year; however, she accepted a job with the Arkansas Department of Education late last month.

“I’ve worked with her in the past on school improvement work when I was in another school, and she has a lot of years in school improvement,” Fisher told the board Monday. “She’s going to be a great asset to our school and she’s just a wonderful people person, and I look forward to [Gall] digging into the curriculum work.”

According to information provided by the district, other applicants for the position were Mike Cain, assistant principal at the Huntsville High School; Sheila Trinkle, assistant principal at the Huntsville Middle School; Audra Kimball, principal at St. Paul; Stephanie Miles, district reading specialist at the Prairie Grove School District; and Toni Hopkins, principal at Marvin Primary in the Mulberry/Pleasant View School District.

Mary Yates with the district’s Employee Services department said on Tuesday that she didn’t “have any of [Gall’s] information in order to calculate her salary.” Her salary will be determined by the district’s salary schedule for administrators, which provides increases for different degrees and educational hours completed.

Gall did not return a phone call seeking comment by press time on Tuesday.

In other business at Monday’s meeting:

• The board voted to table action on handbook changes that would reduce the number of valedictorians in the senior class, and also include honors and high honors CTE options for students.

Board members were in favor of adding the eligibility of the high school’s most difficult CTE courses for honors courses; however, they expressed concerns over reducing the number of valedictorians. In the 2019 graduating class, the Huntsville High School had 12 valedictorians and one salutatorian. The proposal, presented by Huntsville High School Principal Roxanne Enix on behalf of a school committee, would institute a policy of having one valedictorian and one salutatorian beginning in 2023, this upcoming year’s freshman class.

“In 1990, the school board approved that year to allow anyone with a 4.0 GPA or higher that met the core [requirements] for High Honors would graduate as a valedictorian, and the next person would be a salutatorian,” Enix said. “That was a local decision.”

Enix said the committee expressed concern over the high number of valedictorians at the graduations, but wouldn’t “be offended or hurt” over the board’s decision to approve or deny the request.

Huntsville School Board President Danny Thomas voiced his opposition to the proposal, stating that a student who can lay claim to the valedictorian title could have a better shot at scholarships.

“It’ll really be a shame,” Thomas said. “For a lot of the kids, it’s big for their resume going to college ... and to take away six or eight kids who have over 4.0 GPAs and them not being able to put that on their resume, that could be big money for them when it comes to college.”

Board member Lenora Riedel also questioned if reducing the number of valedictorians could remove incentives for students to excel in the classroom.

At each graduation ceremony, the valedictorians and salutatorian are all permitted to make a speech to their graduating class. This year, the school enforced a time limit due to the number of students earning the distinction.

“It takes two minutes a kid,” Thomas said. “That’s 20 minutes out of our lives – so what? They earned it.”

Enix said other students earning over a 4.0 would still be recognized as graduating with distinction at the ceremonies, if the measure were approved.

• The board approved a resolution presented by First Security Beardsley “authorizing the issuance and deliver of $20,705,000” in refunding and construction bonds, per the 3.9-mill increase approved by voters in May.

According to documents presented to the board by First Security, Robert W. Baird & Co. submitted the lowest TIC rate of 2.993876 percent on the bonds. The district received three other bids, with the highest rate coming in at 3.306305 percent from Morgan Stanley & Co.

The documents state that through the agreement, Bank OZK will “receive $20,720,443.66 plus accrued interest of $41,410 less the Good Faith Deposit of $414,000, for a total of $20,347,753.66 from the purchaser.” The district will then forward the deposit to Bank OZK, and $89,410 will be deducted for the cost of the bond issuance, and $7,222,889.25 will be wire transferred to First Community Bank to pay off the district’s Dec. 1, 2013, bond issue. That will leave $41,410 to go toward the deposit, and $13,408,144.41 toward the district’s construction fund.

That money will fund three construction projects in the district: the addition of heating and air conditioning to the Charles H. Berry and St. Paul gymnasiums; the construction of two Career and Technical Education facilities (one in Huntsville and one in St. Paul); and a district-wide activity center.

Fisher told the board on Monday that the district was awaiting approval from the state on the air conditioning plans, and that the other projects’ plans were still ongoing.

Because the interest rate provided by Robert W. Baird & Co. was lower than the district anticipated, Dan Lovelady with First Security told the board Monday that the district will have an extra $300,000 to spend toward construction.

The closing and transfer of the funds is set for July 25.

• The board approved its annual student accident, athletics and activities coverage with Durbin Student Assurance, LLC.

• The board approved the resignations of Davis; Diane Mendez, Huntsville High School Spanish teacher; Ahsley Parker; food service; Roberta Roberts, Huntsville Intermediate dyslexia interventionist; and teacher/coach Greg Sone (see related story on 1B).

• The board approved the hires of Gall; Sidney Harris, fourth-grade teacher; Kierston Leigham Embry, Huntsville Intermediate dyslexia interventionist; Matti Milani, St. Paul Family and Consumer Science teacher; Amanda Lee Vines, St. Paul Elementary teacher; Wesley Ellis, computer technician; and William Jag Prince, athletic custodian.

• The board approved the transfers of Kasi Casteel from fourth-grade teacher to EAST facilitator and Danny Caughman from assistant volleyball coach to assistant volleyball and baseball coach.

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