Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus The Article iPad Core Values Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive Story ideas

PULASKI COUNTY NOTEBOOK: District pays $1.1M in shot incentives | Documentary offers look at opioid crisis | Details announced for lecture series

by Cynthia Howell | October 10, 2021 at 4:45 a.m.

District pays $1.1M in shot incentives

The Little Rock School District late last week paid out $1,110,971 to approximately 2,700 employees who provided proof that they had been vaccinated against covid-19 by Oct. 1.

The $300 vaccination incentive went to about 84% of the district's 3,200 employees.

Superintendent Mike Poore called that response "outstanding."

The Little Rock School Board voted July 22 to offer $300 to district employees who were fully vaccinated against covid-19 by Oct. 1.

District leaders projected at the time that the incentive would cost more than $1 million, with the money to come from federal government-provided covid-19 relief funding.

At the time, district leaders said at least 67% of staffers were vaccinated.

School-affiliated employees statewide were among the first groups of adults who could get vaccinated earlier this year -- after health care workers and the elderly -- against the coronavirus.

Kelsey Bailey, the district's chief of finance and operations, said in July that even if not all employees get vaccinated, the ones who do will likely avoid becoming ill or having to quarantine. As a result, they will be able to provide instruction, transportation and other services that otherwise might be lost, he said.

Documentary offers look at opioid crisis

The Arkansas Department of Education, law enforcement partners and Arkansas PBS have jointly produced a documentary on the opioid crisis in Arkansas.

The documentary, along with classroom-ready resources, will be available for schools, institutions of higher education and communities to show during Red Ribbon Week, which is Oct. 23-31.

The documentary, "7 Days: The Opioid Crisis in Arkansas," features Arkansans who have recovered from opioid addiction, families who have suffered the loss of a loved one, and medical and law enforcement professionals who treat and otherwise deal with people who have opioid addictions.

To supplement the hourlong documentary, ArkansasIDEAS, which develops training programs for Arkansas educators, created classroom-ready resources that will be available Friday on the ArkansasIDEAS website:

Schools and communities will have additional opportunities to learn more about the documentary with the following activities:

• Wednesday: The documentary will be shown at 2:30 p.m. at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. The virtual screening window will open at 10 a.m. Thursday. More information is available at

• Oct. 22: The Arkansas Department of Education will join partners for a panel discussion on "Arkansas Week: The Opioid Crisis in Arkansas," which will air at 7:30 p.m. on Arkansas PBS.

• Oct. 25: The entire documentary will air at 8 p.m. on Arkansas PBS, followed at 9 p.m. by "Understanding the Opioid Epidemic."

• Oct. 27: The Arkansas Department of Education at 10 a.m. will livestream a showing of the documentary at, followed by Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key leading a panel discussion with representatives from the FBI Little Rock office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Arkansas drug director's office, and an Arkansan featured in the documentary.

The Department of Education also has created a Red Ribbon Week webpage with links to additional resources:

Details announced for lecture series

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs has released plans for its 2021-22 Science and Arts Cafe lecture series, which will return to a live, in-person format after covid-19 restrictions resulted in an online series this past year.

The series is sponsored by Mid-America Science Museum.

This set of lectures will be held at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month in November and December and in February, March and April in the Creativity and Innovation Complex. The talks will also be broadcast on the school's Facebook page at

Each lecture will last about a half-hour, followed by an informal question-and-answer session. The topics are:

• Nov. 2 -- Climate Change: Problems and Solutions. Biology instructor Allyn Dodd will share key takeaways from a recent report on climate change and explain the mechanisms of natural as well as human-accelerated climate change, the ecological ramifications of the changing world, and potential solutions on the horizon.

• Dec. 7 -- Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism: 1950-1970 American Art. Art instructor Brad Wreyford will cover the seminal works of artists and highlight the changing cultural and commercial dynamics of the art world during the period.

• Feb. 1 -- The Good Men of Les Miserables. Humanities instructor Dr. Mary Leigh will lead the session and discussion on the musical theater production that asks viewer to consider what makes a man a good man.

• March 1 -- Interpreting Data and Simpson's Paradox. Tracy Watson, mathematics instructor, will explore Simpson's Paradox, in which trends for aggregated data are different from when a person looks at the data in subgroups.

• April 5 -- Maya Culture. Spanish instructor Fernanda Espinosa will lead the exploration of the ancient civilization and its lasting impact.

Japanese speaker joins school faculty

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, the residential public high school for gifted students in Hot Springs, now has a native Japanese speaker on the faculty.

Miyu Sugimoto will serve as an assistant teacher to the school's Japanese instructor, Elizabeth Brown, during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts is the only public school in the state that provides local Japanese language instruction.

Sugimoto, who is from Izumi, a city in Kagoshima prefecture in southern Japan, is teaching in Arkansas through the Japanese Language Education Assistant Program, or J-LEAP, which brings native speakers to the United States to serve as assistant teachers at kindergarten through 12th grade schools.

J-LEAP is offered to U.S. schools through a partnership between The Japan Foundation and the Laurasian Institution. The goal of the program is to provide a native speaker to serve as an assistant teacher to a lead teacher at U.S. schools. The assistant teacher becomes a more confident and qualified Japanese language instructor while helping to strengthen the host school's program in the process.

Sugimoto was originally supposed to join the Hot Springs faculty for the 2020-21 academic school year, but the covid-19 pandemic prevented all travel through the J-LEAP program. She spent the year teaching Japanese in her home country, including at the university level and online.

Print Headline: District pays $1.1M in shot incentives


Sponsor Content