Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Arkadelphia named 'City of Distinction' by Arkansas Business Magazine

Arkansas Business magazine has named Arkadelphia as a 2011 City of Distinction for the development and implementation of the Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy.  The Academy recently began its fourth year with 184 students from Clark County high schools. The Saturday and summer classes are held on the campuses of Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.

"The Academy is just one example of the innovative partnerships that are making a difference in our schools and community," said Arkadelphia Superintendent Donnie Whitten.  "We would like to thank everyone involved in its development and implementation - especially our private funders and university partners at Henderson and Ouachita.  We appreciate the recognition from Arkansas Business and look forward to strengthening the educational and economic vision for Clark County."

For more information on Arkadelphia's City of Distinction award, please visit the Arkansas Business online article or view the full e-issue here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Historic Peake High School Restoration

— Work is under way inside the old Peake School building as part of a year-long effort to restore the building to its original appearance when it was Arkadelphia’s only school for African-Americans.

“We have completed the work on the outside of the building except for some landscaping and handicap-access features,” said Pat Wright of the Arkadelphia Public School System, who remembers taking a class in the old school as an elementary student. 

“The contract for Phase II of the restoration was done in July, and work began in August inside.”  Wright, the director of special programs for the school district, said the work is now concentrating on the common areas of the old school. That work should be finished in November; then work will begin to restore the original classrooms, she said.

The Peake School has a history that goes back to 1928, when it was built using a grant from the trust of Julius Rosenwald, the chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co., that provided money and plans to build schools in African-American communities in rural areas. The school was known as the Peake Rosenwald School and provided classes for the first through eighth grades.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 as an example of one of the 5,000 schools built in the U.S. by the Rosenwald trust from 1917 until 1932 for the education of African-Americans, according to materials from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program in Little Rock. Now, few of the schools remain.

When a new high school was built in 1960, the name of the Peake School was changed to Peake Elementary School for grades one through six.  When Arkadelphia schools were totally integrated in 1970, it became Peake Middle School. By 1984, the original Peake School building was used by the Head Start program, but the building had been vacant since December 2001.

“Since then, there has been nothing going on in there until the present,” Wright said.  Work started last year with repairs to the roof of the building. A second project water-proofed the basement, Wright said.

The work is being done under the direction of Twin Rivers Architects in Arkadelphia. Wright said the funding for the first phase of restoration was from the Arkansas Preservation Program, and the inside phase is being funded by $400,000 in federal stimulus funds given to the program by the school district.  Wright said plans for the building are for it to return to its role of education.

“We hope it will become part of our early childhood program, and the classrooms will be for 3-yearolds,” she said. “There is a waiting list for that program, and the list is longest for age 3.”
Additional plans call for a small museum in the building and an office for the Peake School Alumni Association.

Former students of the Peake schools held a reunion early in August in Arkadelphia. Wright, who is president of the alumni association for the schools, said the group is now looking for donations of memorabilia, such as school jackets and photographs of classes and teachers.

“The alumni want to see this done and finished,” Wright said. “This is important for the legacy of thecommunity. [The Peake building] is on the campus of [what is now Peake Elementary School], and we want those students and all students to understand about the school.”

She said once the building is restored and the museum is ready, alumni will look for ways to link Arkadelphia students with the old schools through their grandparents or other relatives.

by Wayne Bryan
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Tri-Lakes

Prep Academy begins fourth year with 184 students

Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University will host 184 high school students from local school districts as the fourth year of an innovative educational opportunity in Clark County begins. The Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy is scheduled to resume classes on October 15th.

The program was designed as part of the High School Redesign Initiative of the Southwest-A Education Renewal Zone at HSU and the Arkansas Department of Education. Leaders from Arkadelphia Public Schools, Henderson State University, Ouachita Baptist University, College of the Ouachitas, Dawson Educational Cooperative, Southern Bancorp, Ross Foundation, Clark County Strategic Plan, local business and community representatives and elected officials participated in the development of the Academy in 2009. The project was expanded to include the Centerpoint and Gurdon School Districts for the Academy’s second year with the Cabe Foundation and Olds Foundation joining the partnership.

The purpose of the Academy is to provide additional academic opportunities for students to ensure that they are ready for postsecondary studies upon completion of high school. Students were selected based on their interest in attending a four-year postsecondary institution and an application process. Information from the EXPLORE test administered in the eighth grade will be used to help students prepare for the ACT they will take as juniors.

“Our ongoing commitment to this project has been a true collaborative effort and we are grateful to all of our partners. With the success of the first three classes, we are pleased to continue the program with other area districts in Clark County. We are fortunate to have the support of our community and universities,” said Donnie Whitten, superintendent of the Arkadelphia School District.

The Academy will focus on the areas of reading, English, mathematics, and career planning. The program will pair a public school teacher with university professors from HSU and OBU, resulting in a faculty-student ratio of 1:6. The Academy will hold classes on selected Saturdays from October through May and two weeks in June. Activities will take place at Henderson and Ouachita with plans to expose students to additional university experiences through field trips and off-campus activities. Funded by local school districts and grants from private foundations, all classes and activities will be offered at no cost to the students.

Bobby Jones, interim president of Henderson State University, said “The Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy is one of the most progressive and innovative P-12/higher education collaborative projects in the entire state of Arkansas, and I am excited about this new class of Academy students. This Academy is having a tremendous impact on our schools, our students, and our communities. The partnerships between our universities, our public schools, other educational entities, and our private supporters are a model for the power of collaboration.”

“We are so proud of these students and the commitment they have made. We look forward to the return of our current students and to meeting our ninth graders on October 11. Our faculty and staff are planning many exciting activities preparing for their return,” said Paulette Blacknall, director of the Southwest-A Education Renewal Zone at Henderson State University.

The opening celebration for the Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy will be held on Tuesday, October 11 at 6:00 p.m. in the Garrison Center Lecture Hall. State Representative Johnnie J. Roebuck is scheduled to address the audience and provide the “charge” to this year’s students.    For more information on the Academy, please contact Paulette Blacknall at 870-230-5476.

The Southwest Arkansas College Preparatory Academy and Arkadelphia’s efforts to improve its college-going rate will be highlighted in an upcoming October issue of Arkansas Business Magazine as a 2011 “City of Distinction” program award winner.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Arkadelphia Test Scores Released

Students in the Arkadelphia School District completed state testing in the spring of 2011. Students in Kindergarten – 2nd grade were administered the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, a nationally recognized norm-referenced assessment. Seventy-four percent of Kindergarten students scored at or above the 50th percentile on the Vocabulary subtest, 96% on the Words subtest, and 93% on the Language subtest. 78.9% of Kindergarten students scored at or above the 50th percentile on the Math portion of the test.    On the Reading subtest, 60.6% of first grade students scored at or above the 50th percentile, 61.5% on the Language subtest, and 67.3% on the Math section. Sixty-one percent of second grade students scored at or above the 50th percentile in Math, 62.9% in Reading, and 43.4% in Language. Students in grade 9 were administered the Iowa Tests of Educational Development; 57.2% of freshman scored at or above the 50th percentile in Reading, 52.3% in Math.

Arkansas students in grades 3-8 take the Augmented Arkansas Benchmark Exam, a criterion- referenced test, each spring. The tests include multiple-choice and written-response items. Students are assessed in Math and Literacy. Scores are reported as one of four performance levels: below basic, basic, proficient, or advanced.  The 3-8 Benchmark results are as follows:


3rd Grade Math
3rd Grade Literacy
4th Grade Math
4th Grade Literacy
5th Grade Math
5th Grade Literacy
6th Grade Math
6th Grade Literacy
7th Grade Math
7th Grade Literacy
8th Grade Math
8th Grade Literacy

“We are pleased with the improvements our students are making across the District,” said Arkadelphia Superintendent Donnie Whitten. “Our faculty and staff are making it happen and I applaud their dedication and commitment. We will continue to work toward improving achievement levels at every school and for every student in the District.”

Students are required to take End-of-Course (EOC) Exams in Algebra I, Geometry, and Biology. High school juniors take the 11th Grade Literacy Exam.    100% of the 8th grade Algebra I students scored proficient or advanced on the EOC, 46% of high school Algebra I students were proficient or advanced.    Students must pass the Algebra I EOC in order to receive graduation credit. In Geometry, 66% of the students scored proficient or advanced; 35% of Biology students scored at those levels. Of the 11th graders, 59% scored proficient or advanced on the literacy exam.

In addition to these state tests, high school students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes take the AP Exams in May. Students receive a score ranging from 1 to 5. Many universities grant college credit based on qualifying scores.    As an AAIMS school, AHS students that score a 3, 4, or 5 on certain AP exams receive a $100 gift card. Arkadelphia High School also participates in the state’s Voluntary Universal ACT Assessment (VUAA) program, meaning that the district pays for each student to take the ACT during the spring semester of their junior year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heat Related Illness

Arkadelphia Public Schools extends our condolences to our colleagues in the Gurdon School District and to the Williams family. We realize that each life is important no matter what location an incident such as this occurs, but we also realize that it seems to resonate more with our community due to the close distance between Gurdon and Arkadelphia.

Because of this, we wanted to let our patrons know of some of the precautionary measures that our school district implemented before pre-season practices began. The measures serve to educate our parents and students about heat illness and to prevent and monitor those that may occur.

Arkadelphia is pleased to have a partnership with the Athletic Training staff at Henderson State University under the direction of  John Miller, ATC. A Certified Athletic Trainer from the HSU Athletic Training Staff along with student interns have been present at all of our high school practices to monitor heat-related needs.

Not only are water breaks built into the practice schedule, but members of the athletic training staff are active in providing water to players during practice with water bottles. The athletic training staff also has a cool water immersion tub in the Badger Fieldhouse adjacent to the practice field should a player need immediate assistance. For our eighth grade team practicing at Goza Middle School, practice schedules and locations have been altered and extra measures have been taken by the coaching staff to monitor the health of our players. A cool water immersion tub is available and the Certified Athletic Trainer is on call.

The coaching staff and athletic training staff have an Emergency Action Plan in place in each of the coaches’ manuals with instructions on how to handle emergency situations. Coaches are trained to recognize symptoms of heat illness, and pull players out of practice when those are noticed. Players do not return to practice until the coach or athletic trainer determines that those symptoms have subsided. Coaches and training staff have a hydration protocol in place should a situation arise.

Other measures taken by the district, particularly regarding our teams who practice outdoors include: 

- Heat illness seminar attended by our coaching staff
- Pre-season heat illness educational seminar for parents of football players led by head coach J.R. Eldridge
- Adjusting practice times to avoid the middle of the day and to give players more time to recuperate between practices
- Adjusting the length of practice to prevent players from being exposed to the heat for several hours at a time.
- Adjusting practice location to the Crews Indoor Pavilion at Ouachita Baptist University to avoid sun during week one of pre-season practice.
- Gatorade provided to players after each practice by supporters of the Badger football program and parents.

We know we are not alone in taking these precautionary measures. We also know that precautionary measures do not eliminate these situations, but put a plan in place so situations can be dealt with as they arise.

Chris Babb, Athletic Director
Arkadelphia Public Schools

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Congratulations, Arkadelphia!

What a week!  As our administrative team was preparing for the return of our teachers on Wednesday, August 3, we received some exciting news from Little Rock.  Each year the Arkansas Department of Education releases the annual school improvement reports and classifies each school according to their most recent test scores.  This year's report arrived a week early!  I am proud to report that all of our schools showed improvement in areas, but there is great cause for celebration at some schools.

While our student achievement data have always indicated high performance as a combined group, we have been challenged by the achievement levels of students in special sub-populations (i.e, minority groups, special education students, low socioeconomic students, etc.)....but that is changing in Arkadelphia!  High expectations for all students is the key improving the achievement level of every child in our school district.

We are especially proud to report that Goza Middle School has been removed from the school improvement list in Arkansas!  This is a tremendous victory for the Goza team (6 years in the making) and I commend their students, faculty and leadership for this EXTRAORDINARY accomplishment.  This announcement proves that data-driven decision making, collaboration, high expectations for all students and clear and focused instruction makes a difference.  Congratulations, Goza!

Our elementary schools also saw increases across the district with Perritt, Central and Peake meeting their targets in one or more areas.  I especially want to congratulate the Central students, faculty and leadership for meeting standards in math and literacy this year...moving them one step further to eliminating any school improvement label for our two primary schools.  Way to go, Team Central!

We will continue to focus on our math and literacy instruction across the district with an emphasis on our End of Course Algebra, Geometry and 11th grade Literacy Exam at AHS.  While we are not where we want to be in all areas with all students - our scores are competitive with districts across the state and we rank as one of the highest achieving districts in south Arkansas.

As we begin this year, I want to personally thank and congratulate our instructional team, students and community for your continued dedication to our schools and students.  I am proud and honored to be your leader.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Babb named Arkadelphia AD

Arkadelphia Public Schools Contact:  Donnie Whitten, (870) 246-1100

OBU’s Babb named Arkadelphia AD
ARKADELPHIA  -  Arkadelphia Public Schools named Chris Babb as Athletic Director on Tuesday night.  Babb currently serves as the external director of alumni at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.
A graduate of Cabot High School, Babb earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Ouachita Baptist University in 1999 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sports administration from Henderson State University.
“Chris Babb has the vision and energy to take Arkadelphia Athletics to the next level,” said Arkadelphia Superintendent Donnie Whitten.  “He brings administrative experience in athletics, fundraising and public relations, and a positive attitude that will resonate within the Badger community.  We are excited about Chris joining our team!”
Babb spent the last ten years in athletics and development at Ouachita Baptist University.  As director of athletic development, he served as the fundraising liaison for Ouachita Tiger Athletics. His work enabled the university to provide scholarship assistance to intercollegiate athletes and helped support a high-quality, competitive athletic program.
Prior to joining the development team, Babb served as sports information director at OBU for five years. In that role, he was responsible for a variety of administrative and public relations activities that helped advance the athletic program and each individual sport.  In addition, Babb also spent time as an account executive at Arkansas Business Publishing Group in Little Rock.

“I am grateful to the Arkadelphia School District’s board and administration for giving me this opportunity,” said Babb.  “I look forward to working with our coaches as we prepare to help our students grow academically and athletically.  There is a rich history in Arkadelphia, but also great potential for the Badgers.  I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for our student-athletes.”

Babb and his wife, Amy, have three children, Carter (6), Millie (4) and Cooper (2 mos).  Carter will be a first grader at Louisa E. Perritt Primary in the fall.  They currently reside in Arkadelphia.
Arkadelphia will compete in the 5A Southwest Conference during the upcoming school year.  The 2011 offerings include:  Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, Baseball, Softball, Track / Cross Country, Tennis, Swimming, Golf, Cheerleading and Dance.