Superintendent's Blog

New information: ACI Trusty in Cabot Schools Three Times

Posted 9/30/2014

As Superintendent of the Cabot School District, as always, I want to be very transparent with our parents, community, and students.  You may recall, nearly two weeks ago we discovered prison trusty, Glen Green, had been sent to our district by the Arkansas Correctional Industries to install safety mats in the Junior High North Gym. In fact, most Arkansas schools use ACI.  

While we were never told who would install the mats when they were ordered by our athletic department, we never would have imagined they would send a trusty like Green to our campus.  Unfortunately, to our surprise and disappointment, we found out Green was convicted of murder in Lonoke County in 1975.  

Green was supervised while on our campus but we find this highly unacceptable.  We also found out last Friday (Sept. 26th), according to ACI, Green has been given gate passes to work in more than 50 Arkansas schools and 5 churches within the last twelve months.  Green has worked with ACI for the last 17 years.  

I’ve diligently reviewed our invoices from ACI since the first purchase in 1997.  While doing that, I asked the Arkansas Department of Correction to provide me with the dates, times and locations of all the schools in which Green was given a gate pass to work in last year.  I have found by reviewing invoices and comparing those with gate passes from ACI that Green had been in our school district two other times.  The first time was in January 2014.   ACI sent Green and an ACI employee to the high school gymnasium to install mats.  They came on a Wednesday and the mats didn’t fit.  They returned the next week to finish the installation and according to the gate pass information, Green was with them both times.  We have verified no students were around during the time of installation.

I want to strongly reiterate that we “do not” employ or allow prisoners to work in or near our schools.  The Arkansas Department of Correction changed its policy last week and no longer allows individuals convicted of murder to serve in this type of trusty role. Arkansas Correctional Industries also changed its policy and says it will now notify school superintendents in advance when a trusty may be sent to their district.  However, this new policy is irrelevant to us since we will not allow trusties in our district at any time.  We have notified ACI that since they use prisoners as part of their program with providing products and installations to schools, we will not do further business with them.  Again, we will not allow anyone to send trusties to work in our schools, regardless of the time of year.

I want to share our invoice history, including the date the invoice was processed with Arkansas Correctional Industries:

Arkansas Correctional Industries

Invoice Date

Item

Invoice Amount 

8/29/1997

Street/Road Signs

$1,216

1/30/1998

Street/Road Signs

$44

7/23/1998

Basketball Pads

$214

1/15/1999

Wall and Beam Pads

$5,329

2/28/2001

Landing Pad  

$702

2/28/2001

Pole Vault Pit

$2,575

2/28/2001

High Jump Pit

$1,917

2/28/2001

Pole Vault Landing Pad

$782

4/11/2001

Picnic Tables

$1,200

12/8/2003

Street/Road Signs

$302

12/22/2003

Street/Road Signs

$148

2/11/2004

Street/Road Signs

$148

6/22/2004

Street/Road Signs

$1,656

12/13/2004

Street/Road Signs

$138

8/20/2008

Binders

$307

2/4/2009

Track Supplies

$609

1/11/2012

Gym Pads

$173

4/25/2012

Track Supplies

$907

5/9/2012

Folders

$158

5/29/2012

Folders

$181

5/30/2012

Track Supplies

$907

6/20/2012

Folders

$3

9/10/2012

Folders

$140

9/25/2012

Beams and Outlets

$327

12/19/2012

Folders

$150

3/28/2013

Bball/Sball Supp

$519

2/19/2014

Arena Safety Pads

$1,716

9/16/2014

Gym Safety Pads

$210

*Invoice date is the date we received the bill for the item

I apologize for the concern this has caused our parents and community. I am a parent of two children in this district and want to assure you that having this trusty on our campus was never approved by the district.  

Please let me know if you have any questions.  You may use the ‘Contact Superintendent’ tab or email me directly at tony.thurman@cps.k12.ar.us


Congratulations to our 12 CHS National Merit Semifinalists

Posted 9/25/2014

No matter how long I am in this profession, I continue to be amazed by the abilities of many of our students. No matter which building you visit in our district you can see students working hard and striving to grow to their maximum potential. Perhaps no better example of this can be found than in our 12 CHS seniors whom were recently recognized as National Merit Semifinalists: Robert Andrews, Maxim Applegate, Payton Binns, Olivia Fredricks, Caitlin Harty, Ashley Holt, Rachel Hunt, Annalise Jirik, Sooyoung Matthews, Jon Dale Nichols, Alexis Weeks, and Vanessa Weidling. They have made our entire district proud by their efforts as students.

National Merit Semifinalist recognition is given from the National Merit® Scholarship Program, which is a national academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students from around the country enter this program by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) prior to their senior year of high school and by achieving a particular score on the exam. Around 1.5 million eligible students take this exam every October; and of those students, about 16,000, or 1% of that total class, have scores which qualify them as semifinalists.  

For Arkansas, the selection index for recognition is a score of 206 out of a possible 240. There are 132 semifinalists in the state this year, and 12 of those are from Cabot. We are the 7th largest district in our state, and one of only a handful in the top 10 with one high school, yet our total award recipients is the 2nd highest for any school or district in Arkansas. This is a great honor for not only these students, but for our district and our community. These 12 students have truly made us proud.

As a district, we have put a number of curriculum components in place to support students as they strive for National Merit recognition or for success on high stakes exams such as the ACT, SAT, and even AP exams. Students who take Pre-AP courses in the 7th, 8th, or 9th grade are pulled for monthly G/T seminar lessons taught by a certified G/T specialist. The lessons are designed to improve students’ creative and critical thinking skills, and to expose them to a number of test taking strategies. Also, our 7th through 9th grade Pre-AP Language Arts teachers make use of PSAT vocabulary questions and grammatical prompts for bell-ringer assignments. Several of the Pre-AP extensions our Pre-AP and AP Language Arts teachers use with their classes also address the same content.

Our high ability students are also encouraged to take two years of G/T Seminar electives we offer at CHS. These courses, taught by G/T specialists, Sarah Cantrell and Christi Waller, provide a much needed environment for our students to further develop their creative and critical thinking skills, as well as learn more about themselves. How do they best study? How can they best learn? What are their goals in life? What college do they wish to attend? Our faculty help them answer these questions, as well as, provide them with a solid curriculum on high-stake test preparation. So many of our students have the content knowledge they need to be successful, but we want to ensure they have the ability and the confidence to put that knowledge to use.

We also understand that no matter how academically strong students may be, they are going to need some assistance as they delve deeper into the more difficult secondary curriculum. With that in mind, in the fall of 2009, we established the only AP Academy in the state of Arkansas. Our AP Academy, which is overseen by our Secondary G/T Coordinator, Melissa Elliott, is designed to support our students as they move through their secondary coursework, as well as provide them with much needed guidance on course selection, test preparation, and college admission. As students get closer to their graduation date, they must be prepared for the various educational and vocational opportunities that await them. I am extremely proud of the work our staff does in this regard and the time and energy they put into helping our students to be their very best.

Our district and community delights in seeing our students succeed. Congratulations are due to everyone who had a hand in this success, but especially for these 12 incredible students.

 

ADC/ACI Trusty in Cabot Schools: Follow-Up

Posted 9/22/2014

I received notification this morning from the Chairman of the Board of the Arkansas Department of Correction that the policy allowing trusties with a first or second-degree murder conviction to work in or near schools, regardless of their rating, has been terminated effective immediately.  This was already true for sex related crime offenses. 

I apologize to our parents and patrons that this occurred but I am pleased that such a positive change will be made in the system based on what happened in our district last Monday morning.  

Arkansas Correctional Industries has installed products in 45 Arkansas schools in the last four weeks.  I'm thankful that there wasn't an incident in any of those districts or our district for a change to be necessitated. 

We are reviewing our requirements for having visitors on every campus and we will internally implement what is necessary.  We have made changes to policies and procedures in recent years to ensure a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff.  Unfortunately, there are circumstances we can’t foresee and happen without warning. 

The trusty that was on our campus last Monday should have never been here.  Now I can assure parents, that he, nor any other trusty, will ever be allowed to work at our schools in the future.


ACI Trusty Not Approved by District

Posted 9/21/2014

A local newspaper published a story this weekend regarding the use of Arkansas Correctional Industries (ACI) to install safety mats at Junior High North.  While the article was factual, I would like to share additional information on this incident.   

Arkansas Correctional Industries (http://www.acicatalog.com/Pages/default.aspx) is used by virtually every governmental agency and school district in Arkansas for supplies and equipment.  

Our athletic department purchased safety mats recently to be made and installed at Junior High North by ACI.  Mr. Steve Roberts, a district administrator, met ACI at the gym last Monday to have the mats installed.

There were two individuals sent from ACI to install the safety mats.  One of the individuals was an employee of ACI and the other was a trusty from the Arkansas Department of Correction that works for ACI.  

We were notified on Thursday afternoon that the trusty installing the mat was convicted of murder in Lonoke County in 1975.  

The Arkansas Department of Correction told the newspaper that this person was a trusty approved to work outside the prison and that this included schools around Arkansas.

Obviously, we would never approve of someone with this type of criminal history to be anywhere near our schools.

As much as we focus on safety and security in our schools, I can't express how disappointed and upset I was on Thursday afternoon when contacted about this situation.  Regardless of the amount of supervision and the support of ACI and the Arkansas Department of Corrections to have this individual working outside the prison and even in schools, this is not acceptable to the district.  
 
I have spoken with Senator Eddie Joe Williams, Representative Joe Farrer, and Sheriff John Staley this weekend about what occurred and all agree that allowing a trustee with a violent criminal history and a life without parole sentence to be sent by ACI to a school is unacceptable.  I expect changes to be made to the system based on what happened in our district last Monday, and the district will support whatever is necessary to make this happen.  

The district will not purchase any products in the future from ACI until changes are made in how they operate.  

We can't change what happened last week but will do what is necessary to make sure it does not occur again. I have two children in our district and take the safety of not only my own children, but every child in our district, as the most important aspect of my job.  


Parents - Lockdown and Lockout

Posted 9/9/2014

It has been 17 years since one of our schools received a call threatening the safety of our students and staff. Unfortunately, Junior High South received two calls within minutes from the same individual last Tuesday reporting that there was a bomb “in or near the school.”

We have practiced for this type of situation, but there isn't any simulation that compares to an actual event. As I stated to the media, this event was a learning experience for us. We reviewed every aspect of the incident at Junior High South with local law enforcement on Wednesday to address areas that need improvement.

I fully understand that parents want to know what is happening at their child's school and want to be informed by the school district when an incident occurs. In the future, parents will receive an automated message when a school is placed on lockdown or lockout. We are currently in the process of implementing a new communication platform that will allow district administration to send a text message or activate a phone message using a mobile device. This will expedite the process of sending a message directly to parents.

Please understand that when a message is sent immediately following the decision to secure a building, the information may be limited. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available. In addition to our automated phone message system, we encourage you to check for updates via our district website, Twitter, or district Facebook page.

It is essential that everyone understands the nature of a lockdown and a lockout. A lockdown will be implemented when there is a direct threat to the school. A lockdown requires students and staff to take precautionary steps within the classroom. A lockout will be implemented when there is a threat in the area but it is not directed at the school. A lockout requires that all access to the school be controlled and no transitions made until all danger has been cleared. This situation will secure the school building and safely shelter all students, staff, and visitors inside the building. The purpose is to keep the students safe from any danger outside or inside the building.

During a lockdown or lockout, all perimeter doors to the school building will be locked and will remain locked until the danger or issue is resolved. To enable everyone to remain safe, no one will be allowed to enter the building or leave the building, including checking out students, until the authorities authorize such a release.

I assure you that the trust you place in our district to take care of your children is not one that we take lightly. We hope that we never have to deal with a situation again that requires us to secure a building, but we will be prepared. We will communicate information in a timely manner and, most importantly, we will do whatever is necessary to protect our children.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


Cabot Public Schools

Elementary Schools (Grades PreK-4)

Central Elementary
36 Pond Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3564
Fax: (501) 843-4503
Eastside Elementary
17 Bellamy Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3563
Fax: (501) 843-5619
Magness Creek Elementary
16150 Arkansas Hwy 5, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3565
Fax: (501) 843-7567
Mountain Springs Elementary
3620 Mountain Springs
Road, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3575
Fax: (501) 605-1300
Northside Elementary
814 West Locust Street,
Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3568
Fax: (501) 843-6032
Southside Elementary
2600 South Pine Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3567
Fax: (501) 843-6229
Stagecoach Elementary
850 South Stagecoach Road,
Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3574
Fax: (501) 605-1221
Ward Central Elementary
1570 Wilson Loop Road,
Ward, AR 72176
(501) 743-3569
Fax: (501) 843-9744
Westside Elementary
1701 South Second Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3566
Fax: (501) 843-5802

High School (Grades 10-12)

Cabot High School
401 North Lincoln Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 843-3562
Fax: (501) 843-4231

Academic Center of Excellence
(Grades 7-12)

Academic Center of Excellence
21 Funtastic Drive, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3520
Fax: (501) 843-0283

Cabot Freshman Academy

Cabot Freshman Academy
18 Spirit Drive, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3576
Fax: (501) 941-1505

Cabot Learning Academy

Cabot Learning Academy
813 West Locust, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3540
Fax: (501) 843-3138

Special Programs

404 North 2nd Street, Cabot, AR 72023
(501) 743-3543
Fax: (501) 941-2613

Central Administrative Office

602 North Lincoln Street, Cabot, AR 72023
(501) 843-3363
Fax: (501)843-0576

Middle Schools (Grades 5-6)

Cabot Middle School North
1900 North Lincoln Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3571
Fax: (501) 605-0413

Cabot Middle School South
2555 Kerr Station Road, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3570
Fax: (501) 941-7432

Junior High Schools
(Grades 7-8)

Cabot Junior High North
38 Spirit Drive, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3572
Fax: (501) 605-8472

Cabot Junior High South
38 Panther Trail, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3573
Fax: (501) 941-7746