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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Setting the record straight

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Williford Schools in the Twin Rivers School District has had more than their fair share of bumps in the road over the last few years. The small Sharp County school has been the topic of many rumors, as well as accreditation-probationary action by the State Board of Education regarding infractions that need to be addressed. Both the radio and television media have aired reports about the incidents, but Twin Rivers School Board member Kenny Ladd said in an interview, "This is the first time anyone has asked any of us about these issues."

The issues currently related to the school began with the consolidation of administration with the Oak Ridge Central school which created the Twin Rivers School District. In addition, Barbara Wess, a faculty member was charged with embezzling money from the district and was terminated. This occurred under the administration of Roy Causbie, who was then superintendent.

The school's attorney, Donn Mixon, said they will be prosecuting Wess for the embezzlement.

Causbie now works for Standards Assurance for the State Department of Education.

Superintendent David Gilliland said while Causbie was superintendent, his wife served as elementary school principal at the Williford campus. When the schools consolidated having two principals at the campus wasn't in the budget. He said she was asked to be the K-12 principal. Gilliland said she would have to become certified, and he said they would have given her time to obtain this certification. He said she refused to do this and told him she wasn't going to go back to school for anyone. As a result of her refusal, her job was replaced. Following a grievance hearing, Gilliland and Ladd said Causbie then wanted her job back, but the position had already been filled.

Some board members feel that a lot of the issues facing the school district have stemmed from hard feelings from the prior administration.

Several parents of students say they feel as if they have been left in the dark in regard to the future of the school. Rumors have circulated regarding everything from a state takeover to closing the school. Enrollment has continued to drop and rumors have continued to fly.

For this reason, Twin Rivers School Board members Kenny Ladd and President Charlie Tyler along with the superintendent Gilliland want to enlighten the public on the plight of the school and its future and hopefully, eliminate some of the doubt the public has about the stability of the school system.

School Board President Charlie Tyler also spoke with the Villager Journal and explained that at the state meeting, Dec. 14, the basis for the latest round of rumors, the district asked the state for help in overcoming some of the problems it faces.

Julie Thompson with the State Board of Education, said the board sent a team to the Williford Campus to go over the problems and show the superintendent and principal ways to address and repair the issues to help remove the school from the accredited probationary status.

The team was at the school during the week of Jan. 4-8, assisting educators with these issues. When Gilliland went to Little Rock for the meeting, he was only aware of a few issues, one which had already been corrected and was related to a clerical error. When he arrived, Gilliland said the state board presented several others, somewhich could be corrected soon. Many of the issues were not on the Williford campus but on the Oak Ridge campus and are currently being addressed, he said.

The report says that the during the 2008-2009 school year, Twin Rivers School District employed a person at the elementary school and high school who did not have an administrator's license in a position that required one. Another, did not have a teacher's license in a position requiring one. In addition, the district was cited with not having out-of-area waivers for seven staff members to work in areas other than that of their educational speciality. Two of these were at the elementary school and five at the high school during the 2008-2009 school year. In addition, the report states that the school assigned a person at both the elementary and high school with expired licenses. By the Oct. 15, 2009, deadline, the report says the state board had not received evidence that the 2008-2009 violations had been corrected.

Tyler said as far as he knows these are things that have been corrected, and explained that a librarian wasn't qualified but to his knowledge this had been corrected. He said a lot of the issues may be on the Oak Ridge Campus and were not supposed to be brought up until next year, giving the school district time to work to correct the issue.

Another school board member, Robert Woshlogger, said "All the teachers at the Williford school have the correct licenses."

The board also commented on the Sept. 23, 2009, Priority Preliminary Probationary Visit where the Standard Assurance Unit learned that for 2009-2010 school year students were not enrolled in the 38 required study units and again brought up that teachers are still teaching out of area without waivers.

The board's actions could be a wide variety of alternatives, but, a representative of the State Board of Education said, they first try to help the school correct any issues before ever going further with other options.

Gilliland said some of the issues were paperwork related and have been corrected. The team also helped the administrators with things that can be fixed and will be very soon.

During the Dec. 14 State Board Meeting in Little Rock, it was discovered that the school had not corrected items for which it was initially put on probation for in May 2008 and again in May 2009.

The board would like the public to know that they are doing everything in their power to correct the issues by enlisting the help of the state with their recommendations and assures the public they are seeking all resources available to restore the Williford school's reputation and provide the quality education that has been a goal of the district since it's beginning.

Gilliland said, he is there to help and would never do anything to hurt his district.

The state will offer it's recommendations at a Jan.19 meeting in Little Rock. Gilliland said he will attend.

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I wish the Twin Riveres school district well. I heard Williford was debt-free before the state legislature made them consolidate with the other school several years back. At least they are trying to address the problems. It's a remote, low-income area but doesn't mean they are inferior schools. I'm sure many teachers do live out of area.

-- Posted by conventional1 on Wed, Jan 13, 2010, at 8:08 PM

To "Set the Record Straight" Roy Causbie was never Superintendent of the Williford/Twin Rivers School District. The "rumors" that are going around the community concerning the school have been spread by none other than the Arkansas Department of Education as the full report can be read on their website. Identification of employees, former or current, in a public article such as a newspaper, is lacking a certain degree of tact.

-- Posted by districtpatron on Fri, Jan 15, 2010, at 2:31 PM

Just to set the record straight...

This is a excellent school that employs superb teachers and the level of caring and attention each student receives is first class. I would put my child in this school in a hot-minute and know they are receiving the best teaching instruction that Arkansas has to offer.

-- Posted by JaneAusten99 on Sat, Jan 16, 2010, at 5:20 PM

To set the record straight...Mr. Causbie was never superintendent, he was principal. Mr. Gilliland was superintendent the consolidation of the two schools. It seemed from an outsider's point of view that Mrs. Causbie was targeted by administration and was almost forced to leave. It is not the district's fault that the current administration has overlooked technicalities, such as expired licenses and out-of-area waivers. I attended school at the Williford campus before consolidation. At that time I enjoyed my school experience. However, after consolidation school became more of a game of politics rather than a student-focused learning environment. Neither school benefited from consolidation. If I had children today, I would not place them in the Twin Rivers School District, strictly because of the administration, however, I would have placed them in the Williford School District before consolidation. When I was a student at Williford Schools, I felt like I was on a well-prepared path for my future endeavors, such as college. The consolidation was meant to give students more opportunities for advancement, but instead, a stressful atmosphere and a decline of an effective school.

-- Posted by junebug08 on Sat, Jan 16, 2010, at 9:02 PM

Well said Junebug08.

I was not there when Mrs. Causbie left. I do know that Mr. Causbie left for a different job. Mr. Evans was superintendent through the initial consolidation, then took a job with Piggott Schools beginning in May 2005. David Gilliland was hired to replace Mr. Evans.

The two school boards agreed to the consolidation to try to remain as autonomous as possible. Other schools that Williford met with - including Sloan Hendrix and Mammoth Spring - made it clear that any administrative consolidation would become a full campus consolidation as quickly as possible.

From the moment the consolidation measure was passed by the state legislature, the Oak Ridge campus bled students, many choosing to attend Pocahontas because of fears that the school would close soon in spite of the consolidation.

After a rocky start that included a considerable amount of infighting amongst the administrators, Mr. Baker of the Oak Ridge campus was asked to spend the remainder of his contract at home. Then Mr. Evans was informed that the board wanted to bring someone new in who had no history with either campus, in the hopes it would ease friction throughout the district. Mr. Gilliland was hired, he had previously worked in Southern Missouri.

Things seemed to be going well until the vote failed for the requested millage. I don't know if the administration just gave up at that point or felt that they didn't have the support of the community, but the timing is certainly interesting.

Prior to the consolidation, the Williford Public Schools were fully in compliance with state accreditation standards. Mr. Evans saw to that. And, yes, they were not in debt prior to the consolidation. Mr. Evans had a financial plan in place that was designed to eventually allow Williford to build a new campus *WITHOUT* requesting a millage increase.

In the reports Tuesday & Wednesday (February 9 & 10, 2010), the remaining issues were that not all 38 core courses were being taught and at least one teacher was not properly certified. Those are the sort of issues that Mr. Gilliland would have knowledge of - it is the Superintendent's job to make hiring recommendations and approve the schedule and calendar. The school board *should* have been aware of them.

-- Posted by ruralmom on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 4:10 PM

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