(KATV) Pine Bluff - The embattled Dollarway School District is not renewing teacher contracts and the superintendent has announced he is stepping down.
In 2012, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) took over the district and appointed Frank Anthony as superintendent. It was in response to poor performance, finance and standards violations.
Frank Anthony retired after 43 years in education, but June 2012, the ADE asked him to lead the district. Yes, he has turned in his resignation, but has made sure his last day fulfills the one year contract, ending June 2013.
Anthony says he took on the challenge to serve as superintendent because of the children. "It really has been difficult. We were under state take over. I came in June 12. All of our contracts were already issued for the 2012-2013 school year. Our budget and enrollment were continuing to decline."
The problems couldn't be fixed in 365 days, but Anthony says he put a fundamental foundation in place to improve the finances and academics for the upcoming year.
"For the lack of a better term, the district has a reputation earned from state take over. You combine that with the image from the general public, and you put that into the equation of trying to recruit and employee quality staff, it doesn't go together." He continues, "People who have a lot going for themselves think it's a risky situation at best. Plus it could be temporary so that just makes it tough. You cannot teach reading, writing and arithmetic at a proficient level without good quality teachers. That's the blood stream of education."
His efforts come too late for the Altheimer-Martin Elementary School; it will close at the end of this school year. "We are trying to operate the district efficiently. That school with 80 kids would generate approximately a half million dollars and it was costing us about 1.2 million to operate it. It hurts the heart but the head will lead you in the right direction business wise."
Anthony hasn't had time for a sick day or vacation. Not renegotiating another contract wasn't easy but he says the reason is simple. "My boat was getting dust collected in it, my grandkids wanted to know 'pawpaw when are we going on vacation.'"
The district is letting 8 teachers go and not filling about 4 positions. The move saves about half a million dollars, but Anthony worries it ultimately hurt the students. He will help during the transition of a new superintendent. The ADE has not named a new superintendent.