FAYETTEVILLE -- The Northwest Arkansas branch of the NAACP will host an online forum Tuesday to encourage the community to engage with candidates in the Fayetteville School Board election.
The forum is set for 7 p.m. through Zoom with candidates and a School District parent, said Coby Davis, branch president. The election is May 18.
"We want to empower the marginalized in our community to know what's going on and have a voice in what's happening," he said. "We believe that power comes through information and knowledge."
The NAACP was founded in 1909 and is one of the oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organizations in the nation, according to a forum news release. The Northwest Arkansas branch is dedicated to improving the political, educational, social and economic status of minorities and eliminating racial prejudice.
Megan Hurley, school board vice president, and Elisabeth Beasley, Hurley's challenger for At-Large Position 1, will be participating, said Joi McGowan, branch secretary. Nick Cowan, parent, and Nika Waitsman, board president, also will participate, she said.
Miriam Smith, Waitsman's opponent for Zone 1, was invited to participate but declined, McGowan said.
"I already have a variety of tactics in place within Zone 1 to address the topic of educating parents on the importance of voting in the school board election," Smith said.
Beasley said she loves talking to people about the importance of participating in school board elections.
"I feel that it is important to participate in as many community-sponsored forums as possible," she said.
Waitsman said she's always eager to answer questions and to share more about the board's decision-making process.
"One of the key roles of school board members is to engage with and learn from community members," she said. "It is so important for our community to know what decisions are before the board."
Being a person of color is a distinct experience the board can learn from, Hurley said.
"I think that experience is played out in our schools," she said. "We have tons of kids of color in our schools, and I think it's just our inarguable responsibility to, at minimum, listen to and exchange ideas."
The forum is being offered because the city and district worked with the NAACP to make it a reality, Davis said.
"In light of the pandemic and what has happened with education over the last 14 months or so, there is a real need for our parents to be involved in schools," he said. "This opportunity was something that we couldn't pass on, even though we can't provide the exact same opportunity for all of Northwest Arkansas."
Community engagement is one of the district's core values in its strategic plan, said John L Colbert, superintendent.
"Our school district and our school board have long known and appreciated the importance of having an actively engaged community," Colbert said. "Involved and informed citizens have contributed greatly to the success of our school district since its inception in 1871."
The branch plans to offer other forums to engage the community, including an upcoming event with local law enforcement.
"Well Past Due: A Conversation Between Northwest Arkansas Local Law Enforcement and the Black Community" will be offered at 7 p.m. May 17 through Zoom, McGowan said.
"We will continue to host conversations just like these where we're wanting to get information into people's hands and help them know about what's going on in our community," Davis said.
Participants can register for Tuesday’s free education forum by the Northwest Arkansas Branch of the NAACP at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_HRHlcp8qQMy5-47pKh4Ojw .
Source: NWA NAACP