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Rise in scores reported at WH school meeting

by I.C. Murrell | September 20, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
White Hall School District assistant superintendent Debbie Jones addresses board members during a meeting last winter. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

White Hall school administrators touted academic growth as indicated in test scores and gave a breakdown of the state of their school district during a regular board meeting last week.

"We're seeing growth, and that our target collaborative teams, looking at data, planning and working on action plans for students are what is moving us forward," said Debbie Jones, White Hall School District assistant superintendent over curriculum.

Principals from each campus gathered to show board member how students in testing cohorts performed on tests such as at the ACT Aspire. Many of the elementary school students exceeded the state average in English and reading while approaching national benchmarks.

The number of virtual students in the district has sharply declined from this time last year. There are no kindergartners through sixth graders enrolled in online learning, while there were 29 last year. Only one student in grades 7-8 is enrolled virtually -- a decrease of 12 from last year -- and the number of virtual high school students has dropped from 39 to 11.

"I think the students that have remained in virtual have exceeded the expectation and are able to handle that piece," Jones said. "The ones who have struggled to do that have returned. Ms. [Jennifer] Menard is the virtual principal. She's constantly doing the counseling session with them, problem solving and helping them be successful. So, there are choices medically to be virtual, choices where they feel like they can grow the most, so they stay within that, but the application process kept them there."

Virtual students also have the ability to step on campus for extracurricular activities or a lab class, Jones added.

The district announced an enrollment of 3,025 students, an uptick of 7 from this time last year. There are 264 certified and 89 classified staff members, 12 teachers with advanced degrees and 16 national board-certified teachers.

The average teacher salary in the WHSD is $56,172.68.


White Hall High School junior William Donham was honored for winning the Arkansas state chess championship and becoming the youngest person to do so.

According to White Hall officials, the state championship featured 56 players who are members of the United States Chess Federation. Donham beat the 2018 state champion in a final game that lasted nearly 4 hours.


Certified employees in the WHSD will receive a one-time, $5,000 bonus in November through funds from the American Rescue Plan, a federal covid-19 stimulus package.

Full-time classified employees will receive a one-time, $2,500 bonus and part-time classified workers will get $1,200.

"It's just very nice for the district to see how hard we work," said Betsy McCarty, an elementary physical education teacher and the leader of the WHSD's personnel policy committee.


The WHSD hired formerly retired teacher Gayle Peters as a special education teacher, Alene Hale as a bus driver, Charles Anderson to district maintenance, Shelly Owings as a high school special education paraprofessional, and Rebecca Prince as a Taylor Elementary special ed parapro.

Martin Morales has been moved to District Maintenance Level II, and Van Porter has moved to maintenance supervisor. High school senior Dakya Crift will be a student intern in the cafeteria, working 4 hours daily.

The district accepted the resignation of Shaunte McFarland as a Taylor special ed parapro and the retirement of Steve Quarles from District Maintenance Level II.

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