by Max Brantley
Just in from the pocket phone:
* STATE HOSPITAL: Randall Fale, interim administrator of the perennially troubled State Hospital barely six months (and several weeks of that on a vacation to Germany) is already out. From Amy Webb at DHS:
Our Deputy Director, Janie Huddleston, went to Dallas today to give CMS our first monthly status report (see attached). [Editor's note: It's critical.] The report by our consultants talks about the progress we’ve made so far and some areas that continue to concern the consultants. One of the concerns was that they felt Mr. Fale’s larger vision of what the hospital can become distracts from the issues at hand. Mr. Fale has done a great job and has helped the hospital move forward. Though Mr. Fale didn’t agree that his vision was a distraction, he did not want to be perceived as a barrier to progress so he chose to leave. We did not ask him to leave.
Mr. Fale never intended to stay at the State Hospital permanently. With that in mind, he worked to put a strong management team in place. One of those team members, Steve Henson, is taking over as CEO. Henson has been at ASH for about seven weeks as the COO. Henson has more than two decades experience working in health care, most recently as the COO of Saline Memorial for four and a half years. We have made some progress, but issues remain. One, is changing the culture of the hospital. That continues to be a challenge. Under Mr. Henson’s leadership, we will continue to work to improve the quality of care at the hospital.
* DRAMA DRAMA AT ARKANSAS TECH: A student at Arkansas Tech says the university's drama department — an ongoing drama featuring clashes between the university president Robert Brown and theater director Ardith Morris over, among others, use of a fake gun in a play, the condition of the theater workshp and more — is in turmoil again. According to her, the drama productions for the semester have been canceled, including student plays and "Twelfth Night," not exactly "O Calcutta." A course required for graduation in the major is also at issue. More, much more based on past experience, is yet to come. All with info invited to chime in. A blog provides some recent Morris commentary on problems plaguing her program.
* PORN INDICTMENT: The U.S. attorney announces indictment of a Jonesboro man for making child pornography. He allegedly had sex with and filmed an underage teen at a cabin near Strawberry.
* PULASKI COUNTY SCHOOL TIMES: Remember the huge "bell" controversy in the Pulaski County School District, now under state trusteeship? Well, there's a proposal to change school starting times next year, with elementary schools starting first on the staggered schedule, but the proposal is being floated well in advance for full discussion.
The Pulaski County Special School District is considering changing the start times of schools beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.
District spokesperson Deborah Roush said the district is making the announcement early to allow for feedback, and so parents, child care providers and the community have time to make scheduling arrangements.
Roush said since the district is under the oversight of the Arkansas Department of Education after being placed in fiscal distress, and ADE Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell acts in place of a district board of education, notification of a possible schedule change was placed on the January agenda that he reviews in lieu of a board meeting.
Roush said the district is proposing reversing the start times of its elementary and secondary schools. “Currently, we have our middle- and high-school students starting early, with a later bell time for our elementary students. Because secondary students have a longer day, this causes both elementary and secondary to release the same time. Next school year our elementary students would start early and end early, which would allow a staggered release.
“The staggered release allows for use of fewer buses, creates efficiency and saves the district money,” she said.