HUNTSVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Huntsville School Board is up for election this Primary season, and 17 people are running for the seven positions. These are races that will be decided during the Primary, so you’ll want to cast your vote if you want a say in who makes it on the board.
Three current school board members are not seeking reelection. They are Leonora Reidel, Kyle Taylor and Kevin Wilson. Four members are seeking reelection: Terry Forsyth, Danny Thomas, Janeal Yancy and Duane Glenn.
Huntsville School District has been in the headlines over the past year due to the boy’s basketball hazing incident. As we’ve previously reported, court documents say some members of the team hazed other members by “baptizing” them. This is where they placed their genitals in the mouths and on the faces of teammates.
Some felt the current school board didn’t handle the situation correctly, and it inspired Huntsville parent Ben Rightsell to run for the board in Zone 1. He said he would make transparency a top priority if elected.
“We had this whole deal go on and a lot of community members were displeased with the outcome,” he said. “They felt that there’s a lot of people that did not take responsibility as they should have. So I felt, and others who are running as well feel that it’s time for a change.”
Rightsell said he grew up in Huntsville, and now his four children are in the district. He said it’s important to have parents on the board.
“I think having kids in the district and in the schools is a big positive,” he said. “We know what’s going on in a lot of the schools, so I think having kids in the schools brings a better perspective.”
Bobby Rae Gulledge is also running for Zone 1. He’s a St. Paul graduate, along with his three sons. He said he works to stay active in school activities from helping to make sure athletes have what they need to compete, to creating the St. Paul Trade Days two years ago where he raises money for the school.
“We raised $750 last year and I’m hoping to raise $1000 plus this year and that all goes towards the school,” he said.
He promises to always fight for the kids if elected, but he also wants to make teachers a priority as well.
“We need to pay the teachers more to get in better teachers,” he said. “My observance, I’m always around them. You couldn’t ask for better teachers we have if you got to pay more. Pay them keep them here.”
Darrel Summers is running for Zone 5. He graduated from St. Paul High School and after a bit of college and a stint in the Army, he moved back to Madison County. He decided to throw his hat in the race when he realized several incumbents weren’t seeking reelection.
“I really think school is a fundamental background, the backbone of many of our communities,” he said. “That’s the one place where a lot of people come together.”
He wasn’t happy with how schools handled COVID-19 safety protocols.
“As a school board member, I would have the opportunity to at least influence a decision on if we go back to where they’re wanting the kids to wear masks,” he said. “I think that was a bad decision. We have hurt our kids a lot in their education and I want to make sure that we don’t end up masking again.”
Connie tenBerge has spent the last 38 years teaching at Huntsville Schools. She’s retiring at the end of this year and wants to put her decades in education to good use if elected to the school board. All four of her children also graduated from Huntsville High School.
“I’ve been really concerned with the fact that 10 years ago we were number two as the 22 schools here in Northwest Arkansas,” she said. “And in those 10 years, we have now dropped to number 20 out of those same 22 schools based on the scoring from the state.”
On top of her years of teaching, she also has experience interacting with the school board that she said will come in handy.
“I served on the Personnel Policy Committee for probably 10 years over different times of my career, which meets directly with the school to bring forward ideas and policies,” she said. “As a teacher, I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work. I have seen when you have leadership that is open to collaboration and how much you can do.”
KNWA/FOX24 attempted to get in contact with all 17 candidates, but only got responses from these four. Below you’ll find a full list of the candidates running, as well as links to campaign websites if available.
Zone 1: Terry Forsyth, Benjamin Rightsell, Bobby Rae Gulledge
Zone 2: Duane Glenn
Zone 3: Danny Thomas, Logan Roddy, Brady Cotton, Connie tenBerge
Zone 4: Joshua Aaron Obenshain, Stephen Ford, Toni Johnson
Zone 5: Darrel Summers, Nick Wilson
Zone 6: Steve Obenshain