Benson returns to Cedar Park as assistant principal

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Democrat Editor

Bobby Benson has returned to the place he started his teaching career -- Cedar Park Elementary School.

Benson, who spent the first 10 years of his career at the school, has come back after 12 years at Central to become the assistant prinicipal.

He and his wife Deloris graduated from Trumann High School and have two children, Bobbi, 9, a fourth grader at Cedar Park, and Katie, 6, a first grader at the school.

Benson taught fifth grade while at Central.

"I would like to thank the school board for letting me have a job, and also () Walzonia and (Regina) Stacy for having the confidence in me that I can that I can do this job," Benson said.

"I'm glad they thought enough of me to think that I can handle the job and I hope that I don't disappoint anyone and that I can handle it," Benson added. "I've never personally known such hard working teachers that they have here (at Cedar Park). If a child is not learning here at Cedar Park, then there is some part of a problem somewhere because they do try and they do work hard."

He said Cedar Park has a lot of good programs including ELLA, a literacy program, CHARMS, the Disney grant, Accelerated Reader and Early Prevention of School Failure.

He was also complimentary of the teachers' efforts to learn to teach the programs.

"The teachers have been trained, a lot of them go over the summer when they were off on vacation," he said. "They took their time out to go to a lot of training for these particular programs. They're just a hardworking bunch of folks to take out time during their summer to go off and get trained in these new programs, which in the long run are going to benefit our children."

Benson said everyone has made him feel welcome.

"I know everyone is going to miss Mr. Beaumont and I hope I can do half as good as he did."

Benson has a lot of family ties to Trumann. His parents, Bob Benson and Wanda Goodman, were both born and raised here. Bobby has a brother, Bart, who works at St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro.

"My family goes way back," he said. "My great-great-grandfather came from Kentucky and moved to Maple Grove Lane at the turn of the century. My family has lived in and around Trumann for over 100 years. They were all loggers, I think they started logging back on Maple Road when it was all forest. Then when all of the trees were gone they became farmers."

Benson said the family ties give him "a big interest here and I want it to be the best school it can be."

Benson also has ties to the teachers of Cedar Park. He taught several of the them when they were in the fifth grade.

"Now they're teachers and it really makes me feel good knowing that they chose a career in education," Benson said. "I'm hopeful that something I did maybe in some way influenced them. Maybe not necessarily to become a teacher, but at least going to college and finishing their education. It really makes you feel like what we're doing really is important."

He said he taught with some of the older teachers at the school and taught most of the current students' parents.

Benson has begun a major adjustment from teacher to administrator. His duties now include disciplining kindergarten through second grade and overseeing the buses. Stacy disciplines the third and fourth.

"The hardest thing of the day is we have an hour and a half of cafeteria duty," he said. "I call the substitutes if anyone is sick. I'm also the coordinator of EPSF -- the Early Prevention of School Failure."

The program identifies kindergarteners in risk of failure.

He said he depends on the kindergarten teachers to help him out with the program.

Benson also does half of the classroom observations and attends all of the junior and senior high home football games.

"The adjustment is changing hats, getting out of the teacher mode into the assistant principal mode," Benson said. "In a way it was sort of sad on the first day of school. I saw all of the teachers standing at their door waiting on their kids. Everyone was nervous with excitement. To be frankly honest, I miss that. After 22 years of standing at the door the first day of school, waiting on the kids to show up, I really did miss it. But, by the same token, instead of having 25 kids in my classroom I have almost 700."

"Still I can't help but be a teacher," he said. "The other day a little kid was standing in the lunchroom line and he had a neckless on with a shark's tooth on it. Immediately I started through the whole (thing) of everything I knew about sharks."

Benson also said he still starts out the door when teachers are called to their rooms.

One adjustment he had to make was his attitude, according to a former student.

"In March or April the kids out at Central in my fifth grade classes, they began to hear that I was going to become assistant principal," Benson said with a smile. "They were asking if I was going to quit teaching and be assistant principal and I told them I was. And, I had one little girl tell me, 'You know Mr. Benson you're a real good science teacher. What will we do here?' I told here they'll hire someone just as good or better than I am. She told me after that, 'There is one other thing, you're too nice to be assistant principal.' I told her, 'Don't you think that a nice person can be assistant principal?' She thought and she looked around the room and said, 'well no.' So I'm trying to be really mean here and I'm trying not to be such a nice guy."

Benson said he has been even busier than he thought he would be and wonders why now they renovated his office.

"I don't think I sat down for 30 minutes last week while I was here at school," he said. "I've been very busy. Everything from skinned knees to the water fountain not draining right. It's just a wide range of responsibilities. Mrs. Stacy has been so supportive of me, not trying to overwhelm me. She is still doing a lot."

Dress has also been an adjustment.

"As a teacher I never wore any ties, so that's been a big deal, trying to get a large assortment of ties to wear," Benson said. "Everytime I walk into someone now they are carrying a tie, giving me a tie. Some of the teachers have bought ties for me. Some of the folks I worked with at Central, have bought ties for me."

"One of the hardest things of taking this job was leaving the place that I worked with for so long," he added. "Several of the girls at Central, I've worked with for 22 years. They always took care of me. I've always been the only guy in the whole elementary school."

Benson said he enjoys teaching, but wanted to try something else. He still keeps in touch with his friends at Central via e-mail.

All of the teachers at Cedar Park have computers and access to the internet.

"We've got a lot here to be proud of and I'm proud to be part of the school system," Benson said.

Benson has found his new job testing at times. He has already had to chase a kindergartener, who outran him in the cafeteria. The student ran into a corner, which allowed the assistant principal to catch up to him.

"I really enjoy the fifth grade age student," Benson said. "I never could picture myself being a kindergarten teacher. I don't know how the kindergarten teachers do it. They are the hard-workingest bunch of folks I've ever seen."

He said his new job does allow him to ease the minds of frightened fourth graders.

"That is one good thing about me being here," he said. "I can sooth some of the fourth graders' nerves because they are always real nervous about going to Central. I told them all the other day that I would fill them in on Central and it would be a breeze."

He said he enjoys working with the children because there is never a dull moment. He also said Cedar Park has a good support staff, which includes custodians, secretaries and others.

Benson graduated from Arkansas State University in 1979. He got a master's degree in elementary education administration in 1999. Benson practiced taught in the third grade room, and when Erin Coggins became the curriculum coordinator, took her fifth grade classroom in December 1979.

Benson is an amateur radio operator, hunts, fishes, plays golf and radio controlled airplanes.

Benson is the president of the St. Francis Lake Association, which is a group of hunters and fisherman who try to enhance habitat on the St. Francis River.

He said if anyone in Trumann wants to visit him, feel free to express concerns about their children.

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