Gardenhire to retire as Williams’ principal


FARMINGTON -- Farmington School Board accepted letters of resignation from two longtime staff members at its Feb. 27 meeting: Kara Gardenhire, principal of Jerry "Pop" Williams Elementary School, and Tracy Vinson, Williams' school nurse.

Both are retiring from the district at the end of the school year.

Gardenhire, who has 30 years of education experience, first taught at Ledbetter in Farmington as a fourth grade teacher for six years, was cheer sponsor and drove a school bus. She then worked at Northwest Education Service Cooperative for two years before returning to Farmington to be Ledbetter's assistant principal.

When the school district opened Jerry "Pop" Williams Elementary School in February 2005, Gardenhire moved into the principal's role for the new school. Williams Elementary School is named after Gardenhire's father, a lifelong citizen who was a Farmington School Board member and served the community in many other ways.

Last week, Gardenhire said she believes it's time to move on and let other leaders step in and continue to improve and grow the school.

"I've enjoyed it here greatly and had so many opportunities. I'm thankful for that," Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire has some plans for retirement. She hopes to enjoy more time at the lake, continue to follow her children in their sporting endeavors and maybe even substitute teach if needed.

In addition, Gardenhire is a new Farmington City Council member.

Gardenhire and Vinson have served together for many years. Vinson will be greatly missed at Williams, Gardenhire said. Vinson has been a school nurse in Farmington for 23 years, according to the administration office.

In other business, the board approved a community service learning partnership with Farmington Public Library and a contract with Great Plains Resource LLP to sell items on consignment on behalf of the district.

Clayton Williams, high school assistant principal, explained the partnership with the public library.

Williams said the high school added a community service course in 2018 to give students the opportunity to earn a state recognized credit for community service with a community partner listed on a registry with the state. The course has to be renewed every five years.

Community service is "one of those things we value and honor and want to instill in our students," Williams said.

Williams said he was asking the school board to approve the library as a community partner. This will be sent to the state and then the library will be added to the list of approved community partners for the course.

To earn the state credit, students have to volunteer 75 hours of documented community service. The hours have to be overseen by a Farmington staff member or by a recognized partner member.

Students have to reflect on what they've learned through their volunteer service every 25 hours and then submit journals to a panel to be reviewed to receive the state credit. Williams said students can accumulate the 75 hours over several years.

He said the high school staff is discussing ways to recognize those students who earn the community credit when they graduate.

Farmington has not had any students participate in the course yet but Williams said 20 students have indicated an interest this time around.

For the consignment contract, Great Plains Resource will sell excess school items, such as furniture, shelves and buses, and 60% of the profit will be returned to the school district.

The board also approved the consent agenda, which included the financial report, and the 2022 school audit.

Superintendent Jon Laffoon said the monthly financial report shows the legal balance is down a little and he attributed this to debt service payments for the month, additional expenses for instructional accounts and technology and higher utility costs.

Another higher expense, Laffoon said, is that the state has mandated districts to pay a larger portion for employee insurance. This has increased from $168 per employee per month to $300 per employee per month and will cost the district $90,000 for the year.

The legal balance for Period 7 was $577,124, according to the financial report. This compares to about $979,000 for the same period in 2021-22 and $959,629 for the same period in 2020-21.

John Evans with Landmark Certified Public Accountants reviewed the 2022 audit report with the school board.

"Overall, it's a good, clean audit," Evans said.

The district did not have any deficiencies in internal controls and was in compliance with state and federal laws and regulations, according to Evans.

Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Pinkerton told the board she is working on a safety grant for money allocated to Farmington from the state. Farmington's portion is $215,075 out of $50 million dedicated for school safety. The grant application is due March 28.

Pinkerton said she also is continuing progress toward a pre-kindergarten program for Farmington School District. She said she hopes to start taking applications sometime in May.

Laffoon recognized board members Lori Blew and Josh Petree for achieving the status of Master Board Member for 50 hours or more of professional development through the Arkansas School Board Association.

Farmington High School student Shelby Earnheart is one of six finalists in the state selected to give a speech for the FFA prepared public speaking competition. Earnheart gave her speech to the board at the beginning of the meeting.

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