Banker seeks Heil's position on Fayetteville School Board

Posted: March 2, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Keaton Smith

Keaton Smith

FAYETTEVILLE -- A banker announced his candidacy Wednesday for the Fayetteville School Board.

Keaton Smith, 32, lives in south Fayetteville and filed to run as an at-large candidate.

The School Board election will be May 22. Filing ends today.

Susan Heil holds the position and said she isn't running for re-election. Heil has served as a board member for 17 years. Her daughter and youngest of three children, who was 2 when Heil was first elected, graduated from high school this year.

"I've had a great run, and I've loved this work absolutely," she said. "I think it's time to pass the baton on to someone who has small children."

Smith is a vice president with IberiaBank and has lived in Fayetteville for 14 years. He and his wife, Megan, have an 11-month-old.

"As a banker, I'm interested in understanding school finance, cash flow and risk management. As a parent, I'm focused on learning, socialization, student experience and closing the achievement gap. As a community member, I'd like to learn more about staff support and development, STEAM, facilities, community partnerships and connecting students with opportunities to develop employable skills," he said.

Smith said he wants to see safety continue to be a priority for the district.

He has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in business from the University of Arkansas. He is the son of two public school educators -- an elementary school principal and an elementary school teacher.

He serves as board chairman of the nonprofit housing developer Partners for Better Housing and on the boards of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, Community Development Corporation of Bentonville/Bella Vista and the Arkansas Citizens Climate League.

Smith said he also wants to focus on workforce development in schools.

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"There is already a lot of focus on college prep, and that should continue, but not everyone will go to college," he said. "I'm looking forward to exploring how the district can partner with local employers to gain real world experience, build soft skills, give kids the chance to work with their hands and connect students with opportunities in the skilled trades."

Heil said she believes she has accomplished what she set out to do during her time on the board. She is particularly proud of the board's work advancing the districts' technological resources, building the new Fayetteville High School and helping move more toward a data-driven district.

"We have learned that all the data we have around us is gold, and we can grow with that and build around that. When I first started on the board, we didn't have to pay attention to the data. We have now data-intensive decision making," she said.

NW News on 03/02/2018