Candidates vie for seats
Board hopefuls running in Bentonville, other districts
Contested elections for school board positions have emerged in six school districts in Benton and Washington counties.
Petitions to run for school board were due to county clerks’ offices by noon Tuesday. Elections will be Sept. 19.
Bentonville is the only one of the area’s four largest districts with two candidates running for a seat. Amy Gillespie, a five-year resident of Bella Vista, filed to challenge incumbent Brent Leas for the Zone 2 seat.
Both candidates have created campaign websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
Leas, a 46-year-old father of three, is vice president with First National Bank. He ran unopposed for his first five-year term on the board.
That first term came with a steep learning curve for learning the complexities of the School District, he said. That knowledge will help him if elected to a second term, he said.
“The focus for me is just keying in on the positive,” he said. “I have a good record of being a collaborative individual who’s worked with my other board members when possible to find reasonable solutions.”
Gillespie, a 38-year- old mother of two, has a background in secondary education, corporate compliance and broadcasting. She now sells hats and accessories for children through her online Etsy shop Cozy Baby.
Gillespie has attended board meetings since 2014 and posts information from the meetings on the Bentonville Public Schools United Facebook page, she said. She’s interested in issues that include school attendance zones and the district’s growth and fiscal responsibility.
“I want to be a voice for the families of Bella Vista who have felt more or less forgotten for the past two years,” Gillespie said. “Through my website, I have been listening and understand their concerns.”
In Benton County, contested races also are set for the Position 1 and Position 2 seats on the Gravette School Board and Zone 2 on the Siloam Springs School Board. In Washington County, the following positions drew two challengers: one fiveyear term on the Farmington School Board, one five-year term on the Prairie Grove School Board and for Zone 3 on the Lincoln School Board.
A single candidate filed by the deadline for six positions in Benton County and six positions in Washington County.
The Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale school boards are expected to vote this month to hold the school election by early voting because all candidates running are unopposed.
Traci Farrah and Randy Hutchinson filed to remain on the boards in Fayetteville and Springdale, respectively, but the Rogers School Board will have a newcomer with Edgar Hernandez being the only candidate to file for the Zone 1 seat.
Fayetteville’s School Board heard information about the proposal to hold the election by early voting only in June, Board President Justin Eichmann said. The proposal will be up for a vote at the July 27 meeting.
“There still has to be a vote,” he said. “It will save money and time for everybody.”
A handful of positions drew no candidates: Zone 1 on the Decatur School Board and Zone 5 on the Gentry School Board in Benton County and Zone 6 on the Greenland School Board in Washington County.
Arkansas law allows a school board member to remain in his or her position for one full term as a holdover candidate when no one files to run for the spot, said Kristen Garner, staff attorney for the Arkansas School Boards Association. A board member can only remain on the board as a holdover candidate once.
If the board member in the position up for election has been a holdover candidate previously, the position will become vacant after the school election, Garner said. The board will have 30 days to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. The person appointed will remain in the position until the next election.
Decatur School Board Vice President Amy Brooks was appointed to Zone 1, but lives in Zone 2, said Terri Burden, the School District’s business manager. She filed for the Zone 2 seat and is unopposed.
The board will have to appoint someone to Zone 1, Burden said. That zone hasn’t had many people interested in running in previous elections, she said.
The school election will be held for voters to consider a proposal to extend some debt, though the extension will not require a change in the district’s millage, Burden said.
In Greenland, Keith Lawson was appointed to Zone 6, said Tamara Cassidy, administrative assistant to the superintendent. He will be a holdover candidate.
Patricia Morris, who was appointed to Zone 7, filed to remain in that position, Cassidy said.
Only one person, Karen Daugherity, filed to run for a five-year term on the West Fork School Board, but the election will go on because of a proposal to increase the millage, said Judy Tiller, who works in the district’s administration office.
Officials from the Gentry and Elkins school districts weren’t available Tuesday.
“I want to be a voice for the families of Bella Vista who have felt more or less forgotten for the past two years.” — Amy Gillespie