CSD school board candidates may begin circulating petitions

Every school board zone in Crossett had to be redrawn following the results of the 2020 census, with the exception of Zone 4. A new election for the board will be in May. (SUBMITTED/News Observer)

 Starting Wednesday, Dec. 1, potential candidates for school board positions may begin circulating petitions for the May election.

Local school district zones have been redrawn in light of the 2020 census, and the Crossett School District’s Board of Education voted last month to call a new election in light of the changes. Four of the five zones saw their boundaries redrawn because of population shifts in the area, and the call for the election puts every seat on the board on the ballot. 

The Hamburg School District has also redrawn its school zones, but its board has not called for a new election.

The current Crossett board includes:

-Zone 1, Debra Barnes;

-Zone 2, President Keith Medders;

-Zone 3, Secretary Eddie Goodson;

-Zone 4, Katie Jordan;

-Zone 5, Vice President Keith Carter.

Four of the five members have served multiple terms, often without opposition. Barnes is in her first term, having been appointed to fill the unexpired term of Robert Cornelius, who died in May.

To qualify to run for school board, candidates have to circulate petitions gathering a minimum of 20 signatures from qualified voters in the zone they would represent. Candidate packets can be picked up in the county clerk’s office.

For elections in an even year that is concurrent with a gubernatorial election — as 2022 will be — candidates can start circulating petitions 90 days before March 1. The official candidate filing period will open Feb. 22 and will close March 1.

The election is set for the Tuesday four weeks prior to the third Tuesday in June. In 2022, that will be May 24.

Those who are eligible to run for school board: 

-Must be a qualified registered voter of the school district and the electoral zone, if applicable; 

-Must be a U.S. citizen; 

-Must be an Arkansas resident; 

-Must be a resident of the school district and, if elected from zones, the respective electoral zone; 

-Must not be an employee of the school district served; 

-Must be lawfully registered to vote; 

-Must never have been convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery, or other infamous crime.

School boards do not play a role in the active day-to-day administration of the school district. Instead, their role is to establish policy and ensure that it is properly administered.

The Arkansas School Boards Association notes on its Website that, “No individual board member has any power or authority and must never attempt to act as an administrator of the school system. Board members can act only as a group. No single board member has the right to make any decision for the rest of the board. The only time board members may transact any business is when they meet in a legally convened session.”

Key school board duties include hiring and maintaining a working relationship with a superintendent, approving budget and equipment proposals, crafting policy that will attract and keep personnel in the district, ensuring students have appropriate facilities, making sure educational standards and opportunities are being maintained for all students, and ensuring that all state and federal compliance requirements are being met.

“The first question a school board candidate should ask is ‘why am I really running for school board?’ the ASBA Website says. “It may be hard to imagine, but some people run for school board to ‘get rid of someone’ or because they have a personal agenda they wish to fulfill. These are not good intentions when running for the school board.

“Serving on an Arkansas school board is serious business.”

The ASBA offers a candidate guide at bit.ly/32OqmPJ. 

The association also recommends potential candidates read the School Board Member’s Code of Ethics at bit.ly/3xIvPCT 

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