Former Bentonville superintendent chosen for interim post

Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Marvin Higgenbottom

BERRYVILLE -- Marvin Higginbottom was hired by the Berryville Board of Education to work part-time as interim superintendent of Berryville Schools until a full-time superintendent is on staff.

He will be paid $395 a day for his services, a rate determined by the district's salary schedule, which takes into account his master's degree and his years of experience in the profession.

Higginbottom, who asked the board members to call him Marvin, served as superintendent of schools 15 years at Bentonville and Pea Ridge. He also served on the Eureka Springs Board of Education nine years, after retiring to Holiday Island.

Asked about his decision to accept the part-time, temporary position, Higginbottom said, "The wife and I talked about it. I sell real estate and do pretty good. But, I've been in education so long, I believe I can help."

The board voted to hire Higginbottom after meeting with him in executive session Thursday evening.

He will temporarily fill a vacancy that was created when the board suspended former superintendent Mike Cox because of trust issues.

During Thursday's meeting, school board president Sam Eaves presided, saying they needed an interim superintendent, and Higginbottom, with his credentials and experience, could help them with the hiring of teachers, and with the selection of a new superintendent.

He said the district had received 25 applications for the superintendent's slot already.

Board vice president Gordon Hale, who has prior hiring experience, will be looking over the applications and resumes for teaching positions, Eaves explained, and he'll also be working with Higginbottom, narrowing the field down before distributing information on the top candidates to board members for their consideration.

He said Hale and Higginbottom will be working together on the superintendent applications as well.

Eaves suggested the board meet often during this transitional phase. All agreed to get together most Mondays, at 5:30 p.m. They were told the dates would be coordinated and confirmed through Mary Talley at the superintendent's office.

"Mary will keep everyone informed," Eaves said.

In other business, it was noted that departing superintendent Mike Cox had returned all district property, such as laptop, cell phone and keys.

Eaves said the district had received additional legal fee invoices for Mike Cox's wife, Betty Cox, a sixth grade teacher at the school, who had been put on the state's child abuser list for alleged bullying.

The legal fees pertain to the Cox's effort to have her name cleared.

Eaves confirmed that the district had paid some of her legal fees already -- without the board's knowledge or approval.

He said the latest round of bills would be returned to the legal firm, with a copy of the board minutes from the meeting in which payment of the fees was denied.

"These are just now coming in," he said of the latest round of bills. "This is something we might have to deal with in the future."

Eaves also updated the board on the building projects being financed by the voter approved millage hike and state funding.

"Everything is on schedule," he said. "Gary Jackson (the architect) assured me everything is the way it was, except for a little hick-up."

That hick-up, he said, pertained to the city's insistence that bus traffic be routed by way of Freeman Avenue, instead of a new roadway at the Schell building.

"The city said it would have Freeman widened, with a left turn lane and light," said Eaves. "I was glad we could work with them."

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