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2 teachers receive excellence awards

Mary Hatch, a teacher at Harrison Middle School, and Melodie Murray, a teacher at Pocahontas High School, are recipients of the 2019 Presidential Awards for Excellence in their fields of math and science teaching.

Hatch, honored for science teaching, is an Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) teacher in grades six through eight in the Harrison district.

Murray, named recipient of the math award, is a teacher of geometry, pre-calculus, advanced placement calculus, advanced topics and mathematical modeling.

The National Science Foundation, on behalf of the White House, oversees the program that recognizes teachers who have demonstrated a commitment to professional development, innovative teaching techniques, and technology use in their classrooms.

Each recipient will receive a $10,000 award, presidential citation and a trip to Washington, D.C., for a series of recognition events, professional development activities and an awards ceremony.

Winners are chosen from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. territories, and schools operated in the United States and overseas by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Union leader put in library position

Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the Little Rock Education Association union of teachers and support staff, said last week that she has been assigned by the Little Rock School District to the library/media specialist job at Romine Elementary School.

Previously, the organization's president has been released from teaching responsibilities during the elected term, with the organization reimbursing the school district for the president's salary.

The Arkansas Board of Education in late 2019 directed that the school district no longer recognize the association as the contract bargaining agent for the employees and that a personnel policies committee -- elected by teachers -- be formed to advise the district on teacher employment matters.

The committee recommended that the union president continue to be released from teaching while holding office. Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who acts in place of the district's board, denied the recommendation from the committee and from the Community Advisory Board. Key is permitting the district to release Arkansas Education Association President Carol Fleming from her job responsibilities in the Little Rock district.

Charter CEO: Time to make decision

John Bacon, chief executive officer of eSTEM Public Charter Schools, on Friday notified parents in the five-campus school system in Little Rock that they have until Tuesday to make changes in their preferences for in-school or virtual instruction for their children.

Initially, the system offered the choice of a 100% virtual program or a program in which students would be on campus part of the week and online part of the week.

"As you may have heard, we were notified this week by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Commissioner Johnny Key that all public schools in Arkansas must offer a 5-day per week in-person learning option," Bacon wrote to parents. "We realize that increasing the number of students on campus will reduce the opportunity for us to meet the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Arkansas Department of Health for physical distancing in our classrooms; however, we are required to provide this option."

As a result, the school system will offer five-days-a-week, in-school instruction, a blend of in-school and online instruction, and all online instruction, he said.

School resource call center set up

The Arkansas Department of Education has established a Ready for School Resource Call Center to provide Arkansans with information and resources regarding the reopening of schools.

The call center number is (833) 353-6050. Operating hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The call center is staffed by education and health professionals, as well as community partners.

Partners in the initiative are: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Children's hospital, Republic of the Marshall Islands Consulate, Arkansas Bilingual/Bicultural Education Support Network, and the state Office of Coordinated Support and Services.

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