Several key positions unfilled at Fort Smith Public Schools

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,634 views 

School will begin for Fort Smith Public Schools in about six weeks. But summer is not a time for taking it easy as the FSPS administration works to fill several key upper level positions.

The FSPS Board of Education accepted the resignation of Dr. Lisa Miller, Southside High School principal, at the board meeting Monday (June 28). Miller has served as the school’s head administrator for three years, succeeding long-time principal Wayne Haver. She began her career in education at Kimmons Junior High in 2003, where she taught science and social studies. She then transferred to Ramsey Junior High teaching math and then served as principal at Coleman Junior High and the Freshman Academy in the Van Buren School District for eight years.

Miller was recently named the administrator of the year by the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association. She resigned from her position because she is moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, to be closer to her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.

“The time I have spent at Southside High School has been the most rewarding of my career. The students, teachers, colleagues and friends I have met along this journey have impacted my life in more ways that I can express. I will always be proud of my time as a Southside Maverick and a part of the Fort Smith Public Schools,” Miller said.

Fort Smith Superintendent Dr. Terry Morawski said the district was sad to see Miller leave and noted her tremendous impact on secondary education in Fort Smith Public Schools.

“The leadership and dedication she has shown to the staff, faculty, students and families at Southside High School is extraordinary and admirable,” Morawski said.

The Southside High School principal position will be posted to the FSPS Website in the coming days, district personnel has said.

Sherri Penix, assistant superintendent for human resources and campus support, is also leaving the district. Penix announced she will retire from the district July 31. No replacement has been named, and the position is not yet posted in the openings on the district’s website. Dr. Ginni McDonald, former director of secondary education, was selected as the executive director of strategic initiatives and professional learning. This position incorporates the responsibilities of the supervisor of professional development and oversees curriculum development and content, program design and budgets for education programs, a news release said. The position works under the direction of Dr. Tiffany Bone, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

McDonald has served FSPS for the last 10 years in a variety of roles including director of secondary education, principal of Northside High School and assistant principal of Northside. She was named the 2016 Arkansas Secondary Principal of the Year.

The executive director of strategic initiatives and professional learning incorporates the responsibilities of the supervisor of professional development, previously held by Dr. Courtney Morawski, said Christina Williams, coordinator of public information for the district. In her role, McDonald hopes to work with the curriculum and instruction team to coordinate initiatives, grant funding, communications and overall public relations and marketing pertaining to new education programs across the district. She also looks forward to developing professional learning opportunities and programs for teachers, administrators and staff, Williams said.

The director of secondary education position McDonald vacated has not been filled and is listed on the district’s website under open positions. However, the director of elementary education position left open when the former director, Dr. Mary Ann Johns’ retired at the end of the 2020-21 school year, was recently filled by Lori Griffin. Griffin most recently served as the principal of Ballman Elementary School since 2013 and also previously served as an elementary principal in Ozark. She is a leader in the district and the State for her work in developing Ballman as a Model Professional Learning Community (PLC) school, a news release said.

As the director of elementary education, Griffin will oversee the operation of the district’s 19 elementary schools (PK-5) as she supervises elementary school principals and assigned curriculum under the direction of the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. She will also plan, coordinate and administer the functions of elementary school curriculum, professional development, student services, school improvement efforts, and student data integrity.

Williams said one of Griffin’s goals is to continue facilitating teamwork and comradery, as well as expanding implementation of the PLC model across the district while moving elementary schools towards the goals of Vision 2023.

“I am excited and humbled to have the opportunity to serve in this role and to continue working with the dedicated principals, teachers and staff across this growing district,” Griffin said.

Griffin’s move to district administration leaves the principal position at Ballman open as is the principal position at Cook. The district is in the hiring process for both, Williams said.

“We have a great pool of potential leaders within our district for these positions and we are working diligently to fill these positions as quickly as possible,” Williams said.

On the administrative end, the district also is looking to fill the new position of assistant director of athletics and activities, which will work under the direction of Michael Beaumont, director of athletics and student activities.

“It is not unusual to be filling positions throughout the summer before the next school year. However, from time to time, when key positions have vacancies, those vacancies create additional vacancies, so we must do our due diligence and work as quickly as possible to fill those vacancies. We are very fortunate to have campus leaders and staff in our district who are interested in continuing their service with the district, possibly in a different position, as those positions become available,” Williams said.