According to Seth Blomeley, Communications director for the Arkansas Department of Education, a complaint was called into the office Aug. 30 regarding the district requiring resource officer Mike Baldwin, who is not a certified teacher, to "watch after the alternative students." The complaint stemmed from an incident where Baldwin, was needed to assist local law enforcement on two occasions and was not available due to being required to be at the alternative school.
Blomeley said after the department investigated the complaint, they discovered an English teacher had resigned Aug. 29. He said this meant there was not a certified teacher at the location during the first three hours of the day, the time in which Cummins taught and Baldwin was watching the students.
Blomeley said the law requires a certified teacher be present in the classroom at all times. The Department said they informed Superintendent James Floyd about the requirement. He said Floyd was aware of the requirement but simply had a difficult situation as a result of the resignation. Blomeley said he had an excellent track record with developing alternative programs in the Waldron School District.
After contact from the Department of Education, Blomeley said the superintendent agreed to move the students, which he understood to be about five, back to the classroom on the main campus. Baldwin, the school's resource officer, is employed at the school through the Sharp County Sheriff's Department. His expenses, with the exception of his cell phone, are paid by the school. Although Baldwin receives his pay check from the county, the fees are directly reimbursed to the county by the school district. Sheriff Counts said Baldwin's supervisor is James Floyd, the school's superintendent. Baldwin has been required to take lunches to the alternative school and develop a life skills curriculum for the students at the facility since the school year began. Baldwin remains at the facility for two class periods a day, but Floyd explained he was free to leave at anytime if problems incurred on other campuses or he was needed elsewhere.
Floyd explained the alternative program at Highland is to help students who are falling behind on credits. He said these students may not be performing well in the regular classroom setting and after parental conferences; the students are placed in the alternative program in an attempt to allow them to catch up or to introduce vital social and life skills. The curriculum includes a teacher present in the classroom instructing math and science in the afternoons and Cummins, who resigned, teaching English and Social studies, at the facility all day.
Floyd explained the unique methods of teaching the alternative students, including virtual learning. This type of instruction is achieved through distance learning with certified teachers presenting lessons to students thorough a satellite program.
Floyd said the resignation of Cummins has put the district in a tough place in regard to the alternative students but explained he did not want to rush into hiring someone to fill the vacancy because it requires a special type of person and the district would.
None of the current faculty was willing to move to the alternative school to teach the English and Social Studies.
Even if one had agreed to move, a vacancy would still remain. Due to the lack of a teacher during the morning periods, the students were brought back to the main campus as the district makes an attempt to revamp the program with a modified plan.
Floyd explained, some of the plans for the program's future include problem based learning, in which the number of students will be expanded and they will be taught through real life experiences that allows students to apply things they have learned.
He said this will involve work in the community. The school is currently advertising nationally for the position.