Voters in the March 3 election, for which early voting got under way Tuesday, will make decisions not just in partisan primaries. The election, depending on where one lives, may also feature local school board races.
The springtime school board elections are a change from much of Arkansas’ history, when school elections were separate affairs typically held in the fall. Now, after a change in state law, school districts can decide whether to hold board elections in the spring or with the General Election in November. Most schools in Benton and Washington counties opted in for the upcoming primary election. Only Bentonville and Prairie Grove decided to hold elections in November.
Today we offer our thoughts on two contested races — well, really two and a half (see below) — in two of the larger school districts. As mentioned in our earlier endorsements, we encourage readers to use our picks as one piece of information as they make decisions about who to support. Many candidates have Facebook pages or websites, or ask neighbors who have candidates’ signs in their yards why they’re supporting one over the other. Unlike some of the partisan races, most people running for school board aren’t really running against anyone, but just want to serve to make local public schools stronger. We appreciate their community commitment, but votes only get one vote, and we hold ourselves to that as well.
FAYETTEVILLE SCHOOL BOARD
Political newcomer Tracey Pomeroy is challenging one-term incumbent school board member Robert Maranto for a five-year term. Pomeroy is an accountant; Maranto is a college professor, holding the 21st Century chair in leadership at the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. She’s got three kids in Fayetteville schools; one of his kids graduated while another still attends Fayetteville High.
It’s hard to beat the educational policy knowledge Maranto brings to the table by way of his profession. As a school board member, he’s been willing to be think through issues somewhat differently than other school board members, sometimes playing the role of skeptic. The depth of his knowledge about education — in Fayetteville schools but also well beyond — is impressive. He’s been a thoughtful board member willing to listen to teachers and students as much as administrators.
We recommend Maranto for another term.
Zone 4 (2-year completion of term)
This is the “half” race we referenced above. Zone 4 was held by Traci Farrah, but she resigned. The board appointed a replacement in July who initially filed to run, but withdrew and resigned himself. Two other candidates, Justin Jones and Katrina Osborne, filed for the seat. Then, early this month, Jones dropped out of the race as well, leaving only Osborne. But it was too late for the Washington County Election Commission to remove Jones from the ballot.
Oddly, Osborne can still lose even though she’s the only candidate remaining in the race. If Jones gets more votes in the election, he has said he would resign, creating a new vacancy. That would leave it to the remaining members of the school board to appoint someone from the community.
So here’s our endorsement for Osborne, because she stepped up. She placed herself before the public and asked for votes. She stood ready to compete for the seat. We’d rather her get elected outright than to throw the decision back to the sitting school board members. But Osborne will also make a good school board member, having been involved in Fayetteville schools with her kids, who are at Ramay, Holt and Holcomb.
SPRINGDALE SCHOOL BOARD
The departure of longtime school board member Mike Lutrell clears the way for this contest, which drew entries from businessmen Clinton Bill and Edwin Strickland. Both men bring knowledge and skills that make them strong contenders to serve the community well..
We recommend Strickland, a former assistant principal at Lee Elementary who transitioned into a national company that sells professional development programming to at-risk school districts around the country. Two of Strickland’s kids have graduated at Har-Ber and two are at Southwest.
Strickland, who holds a doctorate in education, said he appreciated the at-large nature of the position, giving him a chance to represent the entire district on a school board that will, in all likelihood, hire the replacement for long-serving Superintendent Jim Rollins. Both candidates have been around Springdale for a long time and know the community. Strickland, an African American, would bring some valuable diversity to a board overseeing one of the most diverse school districts in the state.
We’re convinced Strickland’s educational and professional background will make him a strong leader in education for Springdale schools.
This brings to a close our candidate endorsements for the March 3 election. That’s not to say daily readers will have seen an endorsement in every race they will see on the ballot. In the interests of time, we needed to narrow our focus to what we evaluated to be races where editorial feedback might be useful. As columnist Brenda Blagg suggests at the end of her column to the right, the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office has an “https://www.voterview.ar-nova.org/voterview” online tool through which voters can see sample ballots, revealing every race for which they will be asked for a vote.
It’s important that voters familiarize themselves with their ballots and every decision they will face once they enter the voting machine. That will be different depending on where one lives and which party primary the voter decides to enter.
Remember, early voting continues through March 2.
Commentary on 02/19/2020
- Education notebook – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
- California – Ravenwoode: Offering appreciation to health, education officials – Lake County News
- Education News – Texarkana Gazette
- US Department of Education Releases “COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs” | US – U.S. Department of Education
- The more you learn, the more you earn: education and poverty alleviation in Thailand – UN News
- Dep’t of Education issues emergency order waiving test requirement for seniors, series of adjustments – Florida Politics
- D.C. mayor proposes boost in education spending as she calls on schools to fully reopen in the fall – The Washington Post
- Faculty invited to apply to General Education Scholar Program | Penn State University – Penn State News
- US Department of Education Announces More Biden-Harris Appointees | US – U.S. Department of Education