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Pine Bluff High School students to get ‘Effective’ book

by I.C. Murrell | May 24, 2023 at 3:23 a.m.
Pine Bluff High School Principal Ronnieus Thompson details "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens" during a district board meeting Monday at the Jordan-Chanay Administration Building. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Pine Bluff High School students will receive copies of a book that encourages them to make better choices on campus and in the community.

Principal Ronnieus Thompson introduced "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Sean Covey, an education consultant. The Pine Bluff School District board approved purchase of the copies of the book from Barnes & Noble during Monday's regular board meeting, using federal funding.

Other versions of the book for elementary and junior high students exist, Thompson said.

"If we were all speaking that same language, it helps you control your behavior, think before you make a decision, [helps you with] long-term and short-term goals, just planning your life, how to get along with others, how to think win-win every time," Thompson said.

Thompson stumbled upon "The Seven Habits" as a junior high principal in Dumas and conducted a book study of a related self-help bestseller, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Covey's father Stephen, with her staff members. Thompson did a similar project on four other books with junior high students and said their test scores in literacy increased.

"It just changed our world," Thompson said. "It shook us. It made us see our why, and our school actually went from being a D- to a low-C school. It's common language, common goals."


Van Tilbury, owner, president and CEO of East Harding Construction, outlined fundamentals of raising funds for a campaign to increase and unify the millage rates in the district to support the new Pine Bluff High School project.

The board earlier this month agreed to ask voters for a rate of 47.7 mills across the district in an Aug. 8 special election. The rate would be an increase of 6 mills in the pre-annexed PBSD and 6.9 mills in the former Dollarway School District. Board members say for a house valued at $100,000, the owner would pay an extra $120 per year in property tax.

The millage campaign committee must include a chairperson and treasurer, and it may include board, district and community members. The committee must file with the state as a nonprofit entity, register with the state, and establish a bank account.

The goal is to raise $40,000 to $50,000 to cover campaign costs, Tilbury said. But he cautioned the board that no public or district funds can be used for the campaign, per law.

Tilbury also suggested a slogan for the campaign: "Our Students. Our Future."


PBSD Superintendent Jennifer Barbaree said the class of 2023 registered a 95% graduation rate, as 147 of 154 seniors received their diplomas during Friday night's commencement at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

The testing rate for statewide exams in third through 10th grades also increased from 82% in 2022 to 97% this year, with several PBSD campuses having 100% of their students test.

Pine Bluff High was one of 14 schools in Arkansas that was in jeopardy of having its accreditation cited because fewer than 95% of eligible students took the ACT Aspire in 2022.

Contracts for employees have not yet been handed out, but letters of nonrenewal were sent to teachers who did not meet requirements toward earning licensure. Barbaree said she wanted to review every contract before issuing it.

A $5,000 stipend for a comprehensive coordinative early intervening services (CCEIS) specialist was added to the district's stipend chart. The Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting defines coordinated early intervening services as those "to help children who need additional academic or behavioral support to be successful in school."

The last day of school in the PBSD is June 5. There will be no summer school, but Barbaree said credit recovery and "targeted interventions" will be offered this summer.

Beginning June 12, breakfast and lunch will be served at the Dollarway High, Broadmoor Elementary and 34th Avenue Elementary campuses. The district will also deliver meals to families outside of Pine Bluff.


The district has hired Natasha Dunn as assistant director of special services, effective July 1.

Certified rehires include Vernita Lee as district-wide director of assessment and accountability, Sandy Pitts as district dyslexia specialist and Leondra Williams as director of school performance, all effective July 1. Carl Cole has been rehired as a bus driver, effective May 1.

The district accepted resignations from special education program administrator Denise Simmons, effective May 19; James Matthews Elementary teacher Stephanie Reynolds, effective June 30; journalism and credit recovery teacher Leah West, effective June 30; and Matthews school nurse Pamela Brooks, effective June 30.

Gregory Moore, an elementary virtual school improvement specialist, will retire, effective June 30.

  photo  Van Tilbury, owner, president and CEO of East Harding Construction, outlines the fundamentals of a millage increase campaign to Pine Bluff School District board trustees. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

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