LITTLE ROCK — The superintendent of the Dollarway School District told the state Board of Education on Thursday that a "lack of systems" is the biggest challenge the district faces as it seeks to address its academic problems.

LITTLE ROCK — The superintendent of the Dollarway School District told the state Board of Education on Thursday that a "lack of systems" is the biggest challenge the district faces as it seeks to address its academic problems.


The state installed Barbara Warren, former director of the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative, as Dollarway’s superintendent when it took over the district in December. The district’s high school has been in academic distress since July 2014.


"I stand here before you as the eighth superintendent of Dollarway School District in just a few years," Warren said. "In just a few months, there have been three other leaders here in this district. So it’s no surprise that there is a systems issue. When there is no institutional memory, it’s very difficult to continue a system."


The district’s leaders are assessing needs, setting priorities and developing strategies, in collaboration with personnel at all the district’s schools, Warren said. A standard operating procedures manual is in the early stages of development, she said.


The district struggles to recruit and retain of teachers and to get some teachers to come to work every day, Warren told the board. She said Dollarway competes with Pine Bluff for teachers and that when a district is under state control, "sometimes people aren’t as interested."


But she also said she was able to attract quality educators in her former job and told the board that "I’m expecting to be able to do the very same thing with the team that we have and the support that we have."


Meetings with parents in the district are being planned with the goal of increasing parental involvement, Warren said.


"We have parents who are just waiting to do something, and we have not empowered them and given them the direction that they need," she said.


Another challenge the district faces is a "99 percent poverty" rate, according to Warren.


"For those children in poverty, for those children with special needs, they need us to wrap our arms around them in an organized, systemic way," she said.


Board member Mireya Reith of Fayetteville said the board surprisingly has not received an influx of letters about the takeover of the district. She asked Warren what she has heard from the community.


"People have been kind to say basically, ‘We feel good about the fact that some new things are happening,’" Warren said.


Board member Joe Black of Newport said he was "really excited" about the changes happening in the district.


State Education Commissioner Johnny Key told Warren, "I’m excited about how excited you are about the things that y’all are going to be doing down there, and we certainly are there to walk with you."