Can­di­dates vie for seats

Board hope­fuls run­ning in Bentonville, other dis­tricts

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRENDA BERNET Brenda Bernet can be reached by email at bber­net@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter @NWABrenda.

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

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