Hopefuls for school board may begin filing Wednesday
Opportunities abound this spring for those interested in running for a school board seat in Northwest Arkansas.
Twenty-four school board positions are up for grabs in Benton and Washington counties in elections set for May 21. The period for candidates to file begins at noon Wednesday and lasts one week.
Most Arkansas school districts hold board elections in May. Some have chosen to have their elections in November, for which the filing period is in August.
Bentonville is the only Northwest Arkansas school district holding a November vote. The region’s other 14 districts all have at least one seat up for election in May.
All those who win their elections receive five-year terms, unless they are running to fill an unexpired term. Such situations exist when board members resign before their term runs out. All school board positions are unpaid.
Tim Hudson, the senior member of Fayetteville’s seven-member board, said last week he hadn’t decided whether he’ll run for re-election to his Zone 5 seat. It will be the only position on this year’s ballot. Zone 5 is a small section of the southwest part of the district between Interstate 49 and South College Avenue, including downtown and the high school.
Hudson joined the board in 2004 after running unopposed. He ran unopposed again in 2009, then defeated Tim Hollis in 2014 for his third term. He was board president from 2012 to 2016.
The only seat available in Springdale is the Zone 3 position held by Debbie Creek. The board appointed Creek in July to replace Kathy McFetridge, who left to accept an appointment to the Arkansas Board of Education after 27 years on Springdale’s board.
Zone 3 is a north-central portion of the Springdale district that includes
Springdale High School and Bayyari and Elmdale elementary schools.
Creek, a controller for Harps Foods, said she intends to run for what would be a five-year term. She said she enjoys the work, adding she brings a good perspective as the parent of two children in the district and a member of the business community.
The Rogers School Board has two seats in play this spring. One is the Zone 4 position filled by Amy Horn, who is finishing her first term. Horn intends to run again. Zone 4 is a southwest portion of the district.
“I have enjoyed the work that we have done as a district over the last five years, and I would like to continue serving in this role. There are projects and plans that we have put in place, and I want to see those through,” Horn wrote in an email.
Rogers also has an unexpired term to put up for a vote. Edgar Hernandez resigned last fall from his Zone 1 seat, one year after he was elected to it. The board appointed Rob Phillips to replace Hernandez until the next election.
Phillips, a former Little Flock City Council member, said he intends to seek the position. The successful candidate will fill the remaining three years of Hernandez’s original five-year term. Zone 1 covers most of the district’s northern half.
Board candidates must file petitions with at least 20 signatures from registered voters within the school district or from within the zone they would represent to appear on ballots. While some seats represent specific zones within a district, other seats are atlarge and thus represent the entire district. Candidates must be qualified voters and live in the district or zone for which they’re running. They also may file a notice of writein candidacy with their county clerk.
Board zone maps can be found on each school district’s website.
In Decatur, three of the school board’s five seats are up for election. Two of those are unexpired terms. Superintendent Steven Watkins said he expects each of the three board members in those seats to run for re-election.
“We have a great board,” Watkins said. “Most have been on for more than one term.”
Board stability is vital, especially when a district is going through a building project, Watkins said. Decatur is preparing to renovate its high school.
Decatur, with about 550 students, is the smallest district by enrollment in Northwest Arkansas.
Bentonville will have two seats up for election — in Zones 4 and 5 — in November. The seats are held by the board’s most experienced members, Travis Riggs and Willie Cowgur.