Nettleton’s new superintendent facing unique challenge

Nettleton's new superintendent facing unique challenge

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Nettleton Public Schools’ new superintendent has faced many challenges during her 37 years as an educator, including an infamous school shooting.

Now, she faces a new challenge: protecting students and staff during a pandemic.

On Friday, the NPS school board announced Dr. Karen Curtner as the district’s new superintendent. She succeeds Dr. James Dunivan, who retired this month after more than 40 years in education, including 17 years at Nettleton.

In an interview with Region 8 News, Curtner said she’s excited to carry on the tradition at Nettleton even during a pandemic.

“It’s going to be different; it’s going to offer a lot of challenges for us, but I believe we are preparing and we’re going to be ready for school to start,” she said.

She ensures students’ safety by preparing all buildings for their return. This includes moving furniture, getting classrooms ready, and placing signs in the school to promote safety.

“When kids get back to school, they’ll have a routine, they’ll know what our expectations are, and what our procedures are and we’ll be hopefully having the best school year that we’ve ever had,” she said.

Students grades K-12 will be required to wear a face mask. If the parent or guardian cannot provide one for them, the school will provide them with one.

In the school’s announcement, the district noted that Curtner has worked in public education for 37 years and has served as the district’s assistant superintendent for the last 12 years.

During her career, she taught family and consumer science at Brookland High School and Douglas MacArthur Junior High School.

Curtner’s administrative experience including serving as the director of Success Achievement Academy and principal of Westside High School.

She was the principal of Westside Middle School on March 24, 1998, when two students opened fire, killing four classmates and a teacher.

As a result of that experience, she has traveled around the world addressing school violence at national and international conferences in Arkansas; California; Colorado; Illinois; Nevada; Washington, D.C.; China; and Japan.

“The difference in that situation and this situation that I see is the fact that we’re all in this together now with a pandemic,” she said.

According to Friday’s news release, Curtner “shares school safety and lessons learned with administrators, teachers, counselors, parents, students, police departments, school resource officers, and special operations.”

In addition to a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Science from Harding University, Curtner holds a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership and a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration from Arkansas State University.

She has also received the Educational Leadership Outstanding Alumnus Award from Arkansas State University, the Arkansas Association of Elementary School Principals Distinguished Award in addition to being selected as one of Northeast Arkansas’ Most Fascinating Educators.

Classes will begin for Nettleton Public Schools on Aug. 24.

Copyright 2020 KAIT. All rights reserved.