PEA RIDGE – “This is where you start to define what your legacy will be as a school board…we still have tremendous growth, not only in housing, but also in students,” said Keith Martin, welcoming the new school board. member, the two directors re-elected and the four people running for two seats.
Two of the four seats in contention will be decided in a second round on June 21.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Monday. Martin said this was an important board meeting where personnel matters were being decided and it was essential to have a quorum in attendance.
Council members Mindy Cawthon, who was unchallenged, and John Dye and Jessica Branham, who each defeated lone opponents, are the only currently certified council members.
Martin, along with Deputy Superintendents Anne Martfeld and Kevin Ramey, and other district officials, presented information to council members and prospective council members during two study sessions May 25 and June 2.
Martin said study sessions do not count toward required continuing education hours because no local staff are certified for such training.
During the first session, Martfeld said of school officials, “We have to be our best marketing tool. I want more for [the students] than they want for themselves.”
He said sometimes community members don’t realize that board members as individuals don’t have much power.
“The right to make a decision is not the power or the right of one, but it is one of five,” he said.
“We really have to respect our teachers to give them the opportunity to work with parents…you’re basically a fact finder and a jury, if we have an audience,” Martin said, explaining that board members shouldn’t listen. information about situations before a hearing.
He said having a split vote, differing opinions on situations is fine, but “once the decision is made, support each other”.
“The way you work together has a lot to do with our success,” Martin said.
Due to the two seats not being determined until the second round of elections on June 21, the council will not be set up with officers at the June meeting.
“I have to have a disbursement agent at all times,” Martin said. “We will have to elect a temporary for one month only. I can’t stop the payroll.”
He said Mindy would be chair of the board for the June meeting, as she is currently the “highest ranked” board member.
Martin explained the duties of council members and each council officer.
“We’re the biggest company in town,” Martin said. He said term lengths would be “a bit wobbly this time around”, with members firing for term lengths so that all terms could continue to be staggered, with one council member elected each year going forward.
“It’s just part of the process. It should allow us to have only one person walking out of the board…at least until the 2030 census, when we have to rezone again,” Martin said. “Be prepared, if you are with us for a second term, we will have to redraw our lines.”
He said Zones 1 and 5 are geographically spread out and the number of houses built in each zone will change. He said residents of homes built after 2019 are not included in this census setup.
School board members are not paid.
“You all get the amazing zero compensation,” Martin said. “The only compensation is the AAA card which will allow you to participate in any high school athletic event in the state, plus 1.”
He also spoke about the impact of the pandemic on elective office.
“I realize how difficult it is to stand for office, covid has taken its toll on councils and local councils,” he said. “It’s more than you – it’s your spouse, your loved ones. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made.”
“Be prepared. You’re going to get hate mail,” Mindy Cawthon said.
Martin also told board members they could attend meetings remotely, up to three per year, but could not attend executive sessions remotely or vote on executive sessions remotely. He said abstaining from voting will count as a “no”. He said the only time to abstain is when there is a direct trade dispute.