Cantrell stepping down as Jasper superintendent

Jasper Superintendent Jeff Cantrell

The Jasper School District Board of Education has begun its search for the district's next superintendent. Superintendent Jeff Cantrell tendered a letter of resignation which the board accepted at its regular meeting Monday night, Nov. 18. Cantrell told the board in the letter that he had accepted the director's position at the Ozark Unlimited Resources Educational Cooperative.

He said he was offered the position, but that his resignation would not become effective until the end of the current school year, June 30, 2020. He said he submitted his resignation with mixed emotions.

"I have been blessed to be a part of the Jasper School District for the past 19 years. Furthermore, it has truly been an honor to work with the students, staff, board members and patrons of the Jasper, Kingston and Oark communities. I am proud of the opportunities that we have continued to provide and the accomplishments of our students and staff.

"As we move forward, I encourage you to stay focus on our mission, vision and goals. I'm confident if you remain One District, One Team, with One Mission that the 'Opportunities will Never End,'" Cantrell wrote to the board stating the school district's mission statement.

He thanked the board for trusting him to lead the school district. "I pray that God continues to bless this unique district."

In accepting the resignation, the board authorized Cantrell to begin advertising the superintendent vacancy immediately. Applications for the position will be accepted through Monday, Dec. 9. At that time the board will meet, evaluate the applicants and begin the interview process. The goal is to have the new superintendent hired at the Jan. 20, 2020, regular board meeting. That will allow for the transition process to continue through the remainder of the school year.

Cantrell said following the meeting that he is in his 25th year as an educator. He began his career at St. Joe School where he worked as a vocational agriculture teacher for six years before taking the same position at Jasper High School before the school district was consolidated with Kingston and Oark. He then went on to serve as Jasper Elementary School principal and then assistant superintendent. He took over as superintendent in 2014, succeeding Kerry Saylors at mid-term.

The Jasper School District is unusual in that it has three campuses located in three counties and covers more area than just about any other school district in the state. Add to that the isolated and rural nature of the communities they serve. Cantrell said his experience as Jasper School District's superintendent has prepared him to lead the cooperative.

He said he is looking forward to assisting other schools in the cooperative's area which includes 16 school districts.

He also credits having worked with school board members who shared in his belief that the kids come first. He said he has had many mentors along the way.

He will be succeeding Rick Nance who has been at the helm of the cooperative for 18 years. It is one of 15 educational cooperatives located throughout the state.

Cantrell said the OUR Cooperative has 130 staff members. While he will answer to the 16 superintendents on the cooperative's administrative board, he will be responsible for continuing the cooperative's 20 year mission set by the Arkansas State Legislature.

Act 349 of 1985, Section 2, stipulates the cooperative's responsibility to: Meet or exceed accreditation standards and equalize educational opportunities; use educational resources more effectively through co-operation among school districts; promote co-ordination between school districts and the Department of Education in order to provide services which are consistent with the needs identified by local school districts and the educational priorities of the State as established by the General Assembly or the State Board of Education.

The operational mission of the O.U.R Cooperative states that the organization is to respond to the diversity of needs and opportunities in our constituency by: Continuously enhancing and expanding the quality of programs and services; promoting and providing high expectations for positive leadership to effect desired change and fostering public and private sector educational partnerships.

Jeff Dezort, Newton County Times editor, has worked at the newspaper since 2001. Before that he was a reporter, photographer and assistant editor of the Harrison Daily Times.

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