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Jeff Dezort/Staff

Dr. Candra Brasel, Jasper School District's new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, addressed the school board for the first time during the regular meeting last week. She discussed the district's professional learning community training and gave a brief update on Aspire testing.

JASPER — Some personnel transfers were made by the Jasper School District Board of Education when it met in regular session last week.

The moves were prompted by some resignations including that of Melissa Parks, who has left the district as she was offered the principal's position at Lead Hill School.

Parks had been the Jasper School District's federal programs coordinator. On Monday, the board approved the transfer of Todd Parker, Jasper High School counselor, to fill the vacancy. The counselor's position will be filled by Jasper High School teacher Emily Willis. In another move, Brianna Daniels from Kingston Elementary was transferred to Jasper Elementary. The board elected to hire Jamie Grice to fill the vacant elementary teaching position at Kingston. Janet Scroggins, a longtime teacher at the Oark School, tendered her notice of retirement.

Superintendent Jeff Cantrell told the board the school district now has two certified positions to fill before classes start next month. They are a math position at Jasper and a math/science position at Oark.

The administrative change required some adjustments to the job descriptions for the federal programs coordinator and for the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. Dr. Bill Morelan resigned as curriculum coordinator effective at the end of his contract in June. The board, in March, elected Dr. Candra Brasel to fill the new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction position. She has 20 years of teaching experience. Brasel comes from the Huntsville School District, where she was the principal of the Watson Primary School.

Brasel, along with new Jasper Elementary principal Kimberly Liggett, new Kingston principal Seth Villines, joined by Jasper High School principal Jeff Lewis and Ozark principal Brian Cossey were all present at the board meeting to report to the board activities at their respective schools in preparation for the upcoming school year.

Besides routine summer maintenance, administrators are working on scheduling as Kingston and Oark are following Jasper High School's lead in flexible class scheduling.

Lewis noted that the Jasper High School School of Innovation Team presented at the annual Arkansas Department of Education Summit held June 18 and 21 at Hot Springs. Teachers who attended and presented included Cantrell, Lewis, Parker, Willis, Alice Cooper, Jeff Ayers, Mason Dorrell and Kayla Willis. Two students also presented their stories, Lewis said. "We received lots of positive feedback from teachers and administrators across the state."

The presentation described Jasper's path to becoming a School of Innovation, which began by developing flex scheduling to reconnect students and re-energize teachers. The two students described the benefits of the program changes and how they led to their academic successes.

The presentation resulted in comments received by Lewis from Dr. Richard Abernathy, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators. Abernathy congratulated Lewis and said he was "encouraged to see the quality work administrators and teachers are doing for our kids in Arkansas." He said it is "refreshing to see our people thinking outside the box for the benefit of the kids."

One of the transitions being made district-wide is the addition of lead teachers who will report to the assistant superintendent. Lead teachers are experienced teaching professionals with excellent leadership skills. They draw upon their training and experience to serve as an expert resource, mentor or counselor to other teachers. Most importantly, they are dedicated to the improvement of the teaching profession and able to provide constructive criticism and helpful solutions to other teachers without alienating or discouraging them. Their primary task will be assisting in the implementation of the School Improvement Plan.

The school district is committed to professional learning community training. This requires the teaching staff to meet once a week during the school day to develop a collaborative culture.

Brasel introduced several of the lead teachers to the board Monday night and they made comments regarding the Professional Learning Communities Conference they recently attended.

Brasel also briefly updated the board on the recently released Aspire testing results saying that the school district was ranked fourth state-wide in reading readiness. It and one other public school were in the top four. The other schools were a private or charter school, she said.

The individual schools will report to the public early in the school year where they stand in meeting goals. Last year, board members were not impressed with many of the schools' test results and some said they were tired of hearing excuses for goals not being reached.

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