Hope­fuls for school board may be­gin fil­ing Wed­nes­day

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Northwest Arkansas - DAVE PEROZEK

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.

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