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Welcome to fall. I hope everyone is enjoying the crisp air and the start of the change of seasons. I see leaves turning colors every day, and recent rains set the stage for a spectacular array of colors in store for October.

Speaking of spectacular, I am really feeling great about the start of the school year.

As a district, we began the year with a mantra of "You Matter." I cannot think of a better phrase for us to live by as a school district and for me to use in this column on two important topics.

The Bentonville School District is excited to roll out a new program called Bright Futures. The purpose of this program is to connect the time, talent and treasure found in our community with students and families in need.

We believe Bright Futures will impact our community to two ways.

First, it provides us means to take care of a variety of student needs, often within 24 hours of a request. Second, this program will impact our graduation rate by assisting kids who may see dropping out as their only option when they or their family is under stress.

We actually stole this program from the Joplin School District. There are 16 other school districts utilizing this approach that allows students, parents and school officials to recognize impediments that get in the way of student achievement and high school completion.

These impediments are often the result of challenges our young people face outside of the school environment. Through the Bright Futures program we can address diverse student needs, whether they need clothing, food, language assistance or mentorship.

The Joplin School District reports a 10 percent improvement in its graduation rate after implementing this program. We believe that we can achieve similar results through collaboration with our parents, faith community, businesses and service organizations like Rotary and the Lions Club (to name just two of many).

Working together with purpose, we can change a student's life within 24 hours so that their academic life is never compromised.

You may ask what is the real need? Here are some facts:

• We have over 280 homeless families in the Bentonville School District, and it is estimated that there are over 700 homeless families in Benton County.

• We distribute over 1,000 Snack Packs each Friday to our elementary students who are food insecure through efforts made by Samaritan House and local Rotarians. This program is expanding to include middle school students this year.

• 3,180 Bentonville School District families live below the national poverty line.

Please go to our website to learn more about Bright Futures. Sometimes the simplest act of kindness matters most.

When "You Matter" we all matter, and together we can make a difference in the life of our young people and potentially change the trajectory of their lives.

"You Matter" also is a perfect phrase to lead into my last topic for this column. You may not want to hear this, but you really matter in regard to the upcoming elections.

The selection of a new governor, as well as representatives for our state legislative posts, is critical to the direction of public education in Arkansas. Your awareness of how each candidate's political positions will impact our students can really be framed by having you ask candidates four basic questions.

• What is your stance regarding Common Core state standards?

• How will you support creating an informational technology infrastructure with sufficient network capacity and bandwidth to support effective student learning at a reasonable cost to school districts?

• What do you believe is appropriate in regard to school choice? Do you support charters? Do you support vouchers or support private institutions with public dollars?

• Where do you stand on the Arkansas Affordable Health Care Plan? You may think that is a strange question to tie to education, but it is a critical question. The current bi-partisan plan for Arkansas health care protects K-12 and higher education from having their budgets impacted as a part of a solution for the state's health care system.

I really think you will find candidate's answers to these questions enlightening, and it might even help you determine what you will do when you mark your ballot.

Finally, I would like to invite you to attend a gubernatorial candidate forum sponsored by the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 Sept. 30 at the Arend Arts Center. This is your opportunity to find out what matters to the candidates.

You Matter.

I believe that if we live this simple phrase we can impact every child in the district in a positive way, either through support of the Bright Futures program or by a critical examination of the important issues in upcoming elections. Together "we matter" and together we can impact in lives of students in our district.

NW News on 09/25/2014

Print Headline: Don't Forget You Matter In School District

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