Berryville School Board to vote on whether to renew Byrd's contract Monday
BERRYVILLE -- School Board members will decide Monday whether Berryville Superintendent Randy Byrd will retain his job for another year.
Board members have been busily filling out evaluation forms in recent weeks. At Monday's meeting, the results of this work will be discussed with Byrd, and the board will vote on whether to extend his contract.
The superintendent was hired in 2008. In the years since, board members have credited him with helping improve the district's performance on standardized tests and saving taxpayers money.
Board Member Vonda Bailey said test scores had steadily improved since 2008. Last year, the district was one of only 35, out of some 239 in Arkansas, to be labeled as "achieving" under the state's new accountability system.
Bailey also credited Byrd with successfully completing a major construction program -- which included converting the old band facility into a field house and constructing six new buildings -- and with saving taxpayers an estimated $2 million by refinancing the district's debt.
Still, Byrd has also had critics.
Several candidates in last year's school elections ran on platforms antagonistic to the superintendent, and, in mid-September, Byrd was criticized for incorporating a $1,000 employee raise into the district's annual budget.
Board Member Jeff Miles and others speculated the move was a political calculation intended to sway the results of the upcoming elections -- a charge Byrd has denied.
Regardless, several new faces did emerge victorious at the polls, and they have since clashed heads with Byrd and other board members on a number of issues.
At the new board's first meeting, freshly elected members Todd Howard and Sherri Plumlee sparred with the superintendent over the proper length of returning board member Lydia King's term.
More recently, some in the community have expressed distaste with the district's handling of football coach Eric Daniel, who was allegedly told late last year that he would not be allowed to continue coaching through 2013, despite the fact that his contract is still in effect.
About a dozen football players from Berryville High School showed up at a school board meeting in December to speak on behalf of their embattled leader. However, they were not allowed to do so -- and were told they could not address the board, the young men said, because they were juveniles.
District policy does state that personnel issues may not be addressed during public session, and there are very specific instructions -- including requesting the right to speak at least six days in advance -- for those who wish to address the board. However, the policy says nothing about age.
Board members have remained mum on their intentions regarding Monday's vote; it is illegal to discuss pending personnel decisions outside of executive session. However, several school administrators predicted a close call.
Those who are curious about the result can attend Monday's meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. in the Intermediate School Cafetorium, in Berryville.