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We find ourselves at a very interesting time in Bentonville School District.

With a quarter of the school year finished we realize there is so much great stuff happening across the district, it's hard to keep up. We started the year with another 420 students entering our buildings, bringing our total enrollment 15,520 on Oct. 1.

Our growth is a testament to a thriving economy, a wonderfully supportive community, valued partnerships and excellent schools.

The growth in our district is great, but with growth comes challenges.

Most of you know we are in the middle of studying proposed changes to our school attendance boundaries. Addressing the challenges of growth mandates we look at adding capacity to serve our student population, and we are trying to move forward on a new elementary school that would ideally open in the fall of 2017.

Our growth challenges are not unique. Other districts with rapid growth face similar issues, but dealing with rapid growth is far better than the alternative of dealing with declining enrollment.

The primary topic of this article is not growth. It is how we have the discussion about the growth we're experiencing.

In my years as a superintendent, I've experienced numerous boundary, school growth and accountability meetings. I can share that the more intense the subject, the more passionate and divided the room becomes. It is human nature to filter what is shared by presenters.

We all listen intently to try and find things that will help us make our point and support our reasoning.

Currently, we are discussing the topic of district boundaries.

This is and always will be an issue discussed with passion and vigor. The passion brought to this discussion speaks to the learning environments that passionate, student-focused administrators, faculty and staff create in every building in the district, and the desire of parents and caregivers to have their kids in our schools.

As we continue to review proposed boundaries, the Arkansas Department of Education is implementing a new format for sharing how effectively our students are learning in each and every school in the district. The Arkansas Department of Education recently adopted a procedure to assign letter grades to schools in districts across the state.

Some folks will look at these grades quite literally. Others will take them with a grain of salt. More than likely, if your "grade" for a school is higher or lower than what the ADE calculates, you will look for ways to passionately support your position, and each point of view is dependent upon the individual's stance on the issue.

My guess is this community would give our schools very high marks.

The bottom line for me and the thing that gives me peace is that, even though we do have challenging issues, we still have an amazing School District.

Last week the Arkansas Department of Education visited our district offices and every school building to review standards and practices. I wish you could have all heard the tributes shared after 14 state monitors looked at our instructional program, facilities and financial records.

I wish you could have all heard the report provided by our construction consultants, Hight-Jackson Associates and Flintco Construction Solutions, as they provided our final numbers for constructing Bentonville West High School.

The collaboration between the consultants, our district design committee and our facilities and finance departments have us bringing this project in under budget just as we have with all the bond projects from the 2010 millage increase.

What speaks loudly, but is rarely heard, are the wonderful stories I hear on a daily basis from families sharing how our administrators, faculty and staff provide care, attention and expertise to support a family or a child.

This is us. It is who we are, and what we do.

Commentary on 10/30/2014

Print Headline: Bentonville Growth Brings Debate, Passions

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