Arkansas Education

Ouida Newton, a math teacher at Poyen High School, has been named the 2015 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.

The announcement was made Friday during a surprise notification event in Poyen in Grant County.

Newton currently teaches math for grades seven through 12 at the high school. During her 34-year career, she has taught math, Algebra I and II, sixth-grade science, pre-algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, calculus, trigonometry, transition to college math and physics.

Donnie Whitten Arkadelphia school superintendent
arkadelphiaalliance.com

An Arkadelphia Public Schools leader has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a White House conference on digital learning.

Donnie Whitten will be in Washington, D.C. for Wednesday's "ConnectED to the Future," summit hosted by President Barack Obama.

The event brings together superintendents and other educators from across the country who are leading their schools and districts in the transition to digital learning.

Joint Budget Committee
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Arkansas lawmakers decided against a $14 million funding increase for pre-K programs Tuesday. The Joint Budget Committee reviewed the Department of Education’s budget plan in advance of the upcoming legislative session. Sen. Joyce Elliot, D-Little Rock, asked for a vote on an appropriation for extra funding to address cost of living increases since the program last received a funding increase in 2008.

She says her goal was simply to keep the program running at a basic level and the decision reflects a troubling set of priorities in the legislature.

pre-K
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

A new report presented to a legislative committee Monday says $14 million is needed to raise state funding for pre-K programs to meet cost of living increases. The study also says only about half of eligible children are being served by Arkansas’s early childhood education programs.

State Representative David Kizzia joined Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to share details of the study with members of the Education Committee. Lawmakers from Alabama and Oklahoma dialed in to discuss the successes of their pre-K programs following increases in funding.

Federal agencies have granted honors to programs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designated the school as a National Center of Academic Excellence in information assurance/cyber-defense education. Only 65 schools have received the distinction so far.

The federal designation recognizes schools that promote research and produce experts that help reduce vulnerabilities in the nation's information infrastructure.

The Board of Trustees at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis has agreed to discuss a possible merger with the Arkansas State University System.

Board Chair Mary Meux Toney said a merger could help the college do more for the city, county and region.

College President Glen Fenter said ASU would benefit from Mid-South's workforce training programs and the college would benefit from Arkansas State's support for funding workforce training programs.

Fenter said Mid-South Community College would retain autonomy if a merger occurs.

The Arkansas Board of Education has approved the formation of a new school district in Jacksonville.

In September, voters in Jacksonville approved splitting off from the Pulaski County Special School District to form a separate district. On Thursday, the Board of Education signed off on that plan to create the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the new, 4,000-student district will remain under the administration of the Pulaski County Special district during a transition period that is to last no more than two years.

A northwest Arkansas university is asking its board of trustees to approve a nearly $3 million garden and conservatory project.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the privately funded project proposed by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville would be on the grounds of the chancellor's residence.

According to documents given to the UA System trustees board, the Fowler House Garden and Conservatory project would include a structure designed for events like seated dinners and receptions.

Nearly 880 public schools in Arkansas are classified as needing improvement because they didn't meet their achievement goals on state exams.

The annual accountability report by the state's education department was released Tuesday. The number of schools categorized as needing improvement this year is an increase of 84 schools from last year's total. The state doesn't penalize schools labeled as needing improvement.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced a school safety initiative as part of the state’s Special Investigations Division at a press conference Tuesday.

McDaniel said the program is to increase preparation for school shooting incidents around the state. He says teachers, law enforcement officers and first responders need to know what steps to take in a school emergency.

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