Exceptional Men in Education: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

Last week’s column paid tribute to the ladies who had schools named in their honor because of their contributions to Conway Public Schools. Today’s column pays tribute to the men for whom school buildings were named.

Carl W. Stuart (1923-1993) served as principal of Conway High School before becoming the district’s superintendent. Mr. Stuart was superintendent during the entire time I was in school and was also my first boss when I became a teacher in 1985. In 1988, Conway Public Schools honored him by naming a new middle school after him.

A new elementary school opened in west Conway in 1993. It was named after Jim Stone, a long-time educator in Conway schools. Mr. Stone served as a principal of Conway Middle School and Conway Junior High before becoming an assistant superintendent. Many teachers also remember his professional development classes during the P.E.T. (Program for Effective Teaching) and Classroom Management era. In those classes, we all learned to “monitor and adjust.”

The next year, another elementary school was opened in east Conway. Theodore Jones Elementary was named after veteran educator Theodore Jones (1924-1999) who taught agriculture at Pine Street High School for 16 years and then served as the school’s principal until it closed in 1970. He then taught career orientation at Conway Junior High until he retired in 1985. It was in his career orientation class where I applied for my first Social Security card. In the 1970s, one did not need a Social Security card until you were old enough to get a job.

Bob Courtway (1927-1997) was a coach and athletic director at Hendrix until he retired in 1992. He served on the Conway School District Board of Education and started the high school swim team. He also organized the program which offered swimming lessons to all third graders in the district. Bob Courtway Middle School opened in 1997 and was recently renamed Bob and Betty Courtway Middle School to honor Mrs. Courtway. She taught kindergarten in the district for many years.

In 2006, a second intermediate school opened in the district. It was named the Raymond and Phyllis Simon Intermediate (now Middle) School after a couple who have invested most of their life in education. Mr. Simon served as assistant superintendent for finance and then superintendent of Conway schools from 1991 to 1997. He was Director of the Arkansas Department of Education from 1997 until 2004 when he became United States Deputy Secretary of Education. Mr. Simon still does consulting work in education.

Woodrow “Woody” Cummins was honored in 2008 when a new elementary school in west Conway opened. Cummins was a teacher in the district before serving as middle school principal and then junior high principal. He briefly served as assistant superintendent before becoming a banker in the mid-1980s. In 1994, he became state deputy director of education under Ray Simon. He became an investment banker with Stephens, Inc. when he left the Arkansas Department of Education.

In addition to the schools named to honor former educators, Conway School District has also honored other men by naming facilities in their honor. James H. Clark, for whom the district auditorium was named in 1991, served as coach, high school principal and finally superintendent before retiring. The CHS football stadium was named for John McConnell (1928-1991), a long-time school board president who was instrumental in the planning and construction of the stadium which was built in 1975. The multi-sports arena is named for former coach and athletic director Buzz Bolding who retired in 2010 after 26 years with the district.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Many dedicated individuals have devoted a lifetime to making sure the children of Conway and the surrounding areas got a good education. Community leaders have also invested time, effort and money into making sure those schools (and colleges) were well equipped to meet the needs of the students. That tradition continues on today and that is one of the big reasons people move their families here.