HIGHLAND, AR (KAIT) – The top leadership at the Highland Public School District has changed hands just two months into the new school year.
James Floyd, the district's embattled superintendent, abruptly retired last week.
Floyd's unexpected retirement seems to have caught his successor, assistant superintendent Tracy Webb, by surprise, who promises she will help rebuild trust in the administration.
Webb began her first week at her new job on Monday. The school board granted her predecessor, Floyd, an early retirement during a special meeting last Thursday. Board members then promoted her to a position that she thought would take years to reach.
"I've been a Highland Rebel all my life," Webb said, "so I definitely want to see the school succeed and us to move in the right direction and forward."
Webb has spent her entire educational career in Highland, most recently working as elementary school principal and assistant superintendent.
She is now hoping to move the district past a particularly trying year.
"I think like we've always done, we want to make sure that we do everything the correct way, and everything is transparent," Webb said. "There's not any questions about what we're doing and don't want to make people feel suspicious about things that are going on."
Superintendent Floyd came under scrutiny after a legislative audit last year revealed some questionable spending habits. The audit detailed an improperly documented trip the superintendent took to Las Vegas, valued at $809.
Floyd said that he had attended a conference in Nevada, but state officials could not confirm his attendance.
Webb said she was unsure if the audit's findings had any effect on his abrupt retirement.
"All I know is that he made a request for retirement, and the board accepted it," she said. "I was not involved in any conversations concerning why he wanted to retire."
Many community members also raised concerns about a new curriculum introduced during Floyd's tenure that focused on project-based learning in the high school.
Those issues aside, Webb says her new job has been greeted with support from neighboring schools and from local parents.
"I don't have anything negative personally to say about Mr. Floyd whatsoever," said Jody Dillard, the parent of two Highland elementary school students, "but I think maybe it was just time for a change. I think Tracy will definitely be a good change."