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|Poll shows majority supports Monroe schools superintendent|
A poll conducted by local talk radio host Lee Fletcher showed community support tilted in favor of retaining Dr. James Dupree as superintendent of Monroe City Schools.
According to Fletcher's poll, which was obtained by The Ouachita Citizen, some 50.75 percent of 1,618 households polled responded favorably when asked if the city school board should let Dupree keep his job as superintendent.
Some 43 percent of respondents said Dupree should not remain employed by the city school system, while more than 6 percent said they were undecided.
The poll was conducted after city school board members voted against a measure to extend Dupree's contract with the system. The city school board acted on that measure at a meeting in early March.
The poll also indicated more than 48 percent of the households polled were in favor of extending Dupree's contract by one year. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they did not think the contract should be extended. The remaining 15 percent said they were undecided.
"This sends a clear message to board members and calls for careful reconsideration of the issue," said Fletcher. "I do not believe there to be a more accurate measure of city-wide public opinion on this issue than findings from this survey instrument."
Owner and operator of an advertising/media consulting agency, The Fletcher Group, Fletcher said he commissioned and paid for the poll to clear up assumptions in the community stemming from the school board's handling of Dupree's contract.
Fletcher also said he conducted the poll to provide information for listeners to his weekday radio program, Town Hall with Lee Fletcher. Town Hall can be heard Monday through Friday from 7-8 a.m. on KMLB 540 AM. The program's web site is www.townhallshow.com.
"I believe in promoting substantive public debate with the proper courtesy and decorum given to all who have a view," Fletcher said. "This is in hopes of a meaningful conversation taking place and avoidance of any outside agenda other than the one that should matter--the people's agenda."
Pollsters conducted the poll by telephone March 18 and 19. Results were collected from the 1,618 random respondents.
Respondents also fielded questions about their opinions of the superintendent and several options available to the board.
According to the results of the survey, just over 48 percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of Dupree. Thirty-six percent of the respondents had an unfavorable opinion of him, while 15 percent said they were undecided.
Also, respondents who lived in districts where board members voted against renewing Dupree's contract were asked if they agreed with the vote cast by their board member.
Forty-nine percent said they agreed with the vote, while almost 44 percent said they disagreed with their school board member's decision not to renew Dupree's contract. Six percent said they were undecided or had no opinion.
At the March meeting in which Dupree's contract was discussed, five of the school board's seven members voted against renewing Dupree's contract.
Board members Vicki Dayton, Vickie Krutzer, Mickey Traweek, Brenda Shelling and Rodney McFarland voted against renewing the contract.
Stephanie Smith and Jesse Handy voted in favor of extending Dupree's employment with the system.
The move prompted a community outcry that included appeals on Dupree's behalf from many prominent political and civic leaders, including former state Rep. Willie Hunter and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.
Community leaders applauded Dupree's work, with many noting the embattled superintendent took the job when the system had less than $17,000 in the bank.
The system's reserves have ballooned to more than $8 million, a recent audit showed.
Since the initial vote and community response, McFarland stated publicly that he changed his mind and now favors extending Dupree's contract.
Dayton, the school board's president, has stated publicly that she does not know whether the system can legally reconsider a contract extension for Dupree when the board meets in April.
Under the terms of Dupree's contract, the board must notify the superintendent of its intent to renew or terminate his contract before March 20.
Dayton has also said she would not rule out a specially called meeting before the deadline lapsed.
Without action, Dupree's contract will expire Sept. 30.