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story.lead_photo.caption Tonya Sims, a Barton Junior High School teacher, was recognized as one of 27 educators from Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina to participate in a pilot program to connect students with a Cyber Program. The Arkansas Department of Education partnered with the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, Louisiana and Louisiana Tech University in Ruston to offer the program.

Janice McIntyre

City Editor

Recognized as a “Retta Brown Hero,” Reggie Thomas was presented with a plaque and letters written by students at the elementary school to thank him for the new playground. Retta Brown Principal Bethanie Hale made the presentation to Thomas during a meeting of the El Dorado School Board on Monday night.

“Reggie came to me with the idea of a new playground at the beginning of the school year of 2016-17. He got donations from various sources,” Hale said, including several from Murphy USA employees, where Thomas currently works. Murphy matches any employee donations, so major financial donors were Murphy employees, the company and Simmons Bank.

“The playground is mostly complete,” Hale said, noting, “there are a few other things we would like to do. The tires on the playground are going to be pulled up. Reggie did spend evenings after work and weekends sanding and painting basketball goals. He helped with the removal of the old equipment and he came and helped unload the new equipment, along with some of the El Dorado School District maintenance employees and other volunteers.”

A ribbon cutting for the new playground will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday to recognize some of the donors, but Thomas will not be able to attend, Hale said. “We wanted to recognize him (Thomas) at the school board meeting because this was all his idea and passion. He really is a hero,” she said.

“Kids are my passion,” Thomas said after he was presented with the award. He also serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado.

Explaining that Thomas didn’t want recognition for the new playground at Retta Brown, Superintendent Jim Tucker said, “But he initiated it and kept finding money.”

Barton Junior High Teacher Tonya Sims was also honored during the school board meeting Monday night. Tom Simmons, math chair for the El Dorado School District, explained that the Arkansas Department of Education partnered with the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, Louisiana and Louisiana Tech University in Ruston to offer the cyber program.

Sims was one of the 27 educators from Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina that made up the first cohort, to create opportunities for her students, Simmons said.

Cyber Education courses, aligned with Computer Science Certification requirement, target kindergarten through 12th grade educators who want to become leaders at their schools in the fields of cyber, computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math); to enhance or develop their school’s programs; to engage students in new and innovative learning strategies, curricula and programs and to connect students with the cyber jobs of today and tomorrow.

Also during the Monday night meeting, board members selected a May 2018 election date for school elections.

In March, members of the Arkansas House of Representatives voted to move school board elections to either May or November, on election days in years when primary or general elections are set. In the past, school elections were generally held in September. House members have said the bill is a way to increase voter participation in school elections. The bill applies only to school board races and separate legislation will be decided for school district tax elections.

According to House bill 1621, “The board of directors of any school district shall have the authority to hold a school election concerning the tax rate or debt issues on a date other than that fixed by law provided that: All constitutional and statutory requirements for the annual school election are met, the election is held before the date of the annual school election and the commissioner of education approves the date of the election.”

Following an executive session of the El Dorado School Board Monday night, members accepted the resignation of Talithea McHenry, Barton Junior High, effective Nov. 3.

They authorized the employment of Jayme Lovelace, Barton, to begin Jan. 3; Charles White, Yocum, began Oct. 26 and Emily Lesley, Yocum, to begin Nov. 27.

Photo by Janice McIntyre
Reggie Thomas was presented with a ‘Retta Brown Hero’ plaque by Bethanie Hale, principal at Retta Brown Elementary, for initiating a plan to provide new playground equipment for the school. Hale also presented letters written by students to thank Thomas for the new playground.

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