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Longtime educator says time to retire

Vernell Bowen, who has been superintendent of Catholic Schools in Arkansas for 16 years and an educator for 48 years, has announced plans to retire, effective June 30.

A successor has not yet been announced.

Bowen currently supervises and supports the principals of 27 Catholic schools with a total enrollment of 6,676 students. She also serves on the Arkansas Non-Public School Accreditation Association board that accredits Catholic and other private schools.

After working for more than two decades in the Sheridan School District, Bowen in 1993 became principal of St. Edward School in Little Rock, leading to her being named National Catholic Education Association Distinguished Principal in 2001. She was appointed superintendent of Catholic schools in June 2002.

She holds a bachelor's degree from Arkansas Tech University and a master's degree from the University of Central Arkansas, and has received training in Catholic leadership as well.

"I started work in education in 1970, at a time before computers, special-education services, and art, music and physical education teachers," Bowen, 70, recalled last week.

"As a classroom teacher, I taught every subject."

Two of the most significant innovations to occur during her career, she said, were the passage of the federal law that guarantees a free, appropriate education to every child regardless of disabilities and the advancement of technology.

"However, with all the technological advances, it is still that teacher in the classroom that really makes the difference for all the students," she said.

"Students need that human touch from a teacher who can listen to their concerns, offer consolation in times of despair and share human experiences."

School properties include cemetery

A recently published list of more than 200 unused or underused public school district properties turned up the fact that the Fort Smith School District owns a cemetery.

Gordon Floyd, the district's deputy superintendent, said there is not a lot known about the property that the district maintains by keeping it mowed. Even the spelling of the cemetery's name -- placed on the state list as Nolon Springs -- is not at all certain.

A marker erected in 2010 by a neighborhood association calls it Nowland Springs, citing the history of a Nowland family as its source, Floyd said.

"The cemetery covers a little over 2 acres on the north side of Fort Smith near the Arkansas River bridge linking Fort Smith and Van Buren," Floyd reported. "The land was sold to the Nowland Springs School District for $75 in 1887. The deed states that the land was 'to be used as a burying ground for the people of said School District according to its present boundaries and no other.'

"Interestingly, the deed doesn't specify the name of the school district. It just gives a legal description. So that doesn't help clarify the spelling issue," he said in an email. "According to a cemetery census there are 59 grave sites on the land. The dates of death range from the 1880s to the 1940s with the majority of burials occurring between 1900 and 1925."

The Arkansas Division for Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation posted the list of unused and underused properties on its website late last month as required by Act 542 of 2017. Most of the listed properties are buildings although there are some vacant lots and agricultural fields, too.

The state law clarifies and expands charter schools' rights of access and first refusal to purchase or lease unused or partially used facilities owned by traditional school districts.

The charter schools are required to pay fair market value for any properties they buy or lease from the traditional districts.

Panel votes to end school's probation

The state Charter Authorizing Panel last week voted to release Rockbridge Montessori Charter School from probation but required it to submit reports on finance, staffing and academic achievement by the end of 2018 to the state's charter school office.

The panel voted 5-1 in April 2017 to put the Rockbridge School that is in Little Rock on probation for a range of problems that came to light after state authorities learned earlier in that year that no special-education services had been provided to pupils for weeks after a teacher resigned in October 2016.

School leadership has since changed at the school. Will Felton is the new superintendent.

The panel's decision to release the school from probation is subject to review by the state Board of Education.

Hoy, Helena chief of schools, to quit

John Hoy is resigning from the Helena-West Helena School District superintendency at the end of this school year.

He announced the plan at a district School Board meeting last week, saying that he and his wife had purchased a home outside the district, and he wanted to be close to that home, The Helena-West Helena World reported.

Hoy was appointed to the position in 2014 by then-Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell. The district was under state control at the time.

Hoy continued to serve in the lead role after the operation of the district was returned to a locally elected School Board in late 2016.

Hoy was an assistant commissioner for accountability at the Arkansas Department of Education at the time he was chosen for the Helena-West Helena job.

Metro on 03/18/2018

Print Headline: Longtime educator says time to retire School properties include cemetery Panel votes to end school's probation Hoy, Helena chief of schools, to quit

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