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Dunning, Guthrie, Faddis prevail in Bentonville School Board races; two other seats up for grabs in runoff

Runoff needed in pair of races by Mike Jones | November 9, 2022 at 5:35 a.m.
John Leflar votes Monday during early voting at the Benton County Administration Building in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

BENTONVILLE -- The Bentonville School Board will soon get four new members, though runoff elections are still needed to determine two of them.

All five zoned seats on the Bentonville School Board were up for election Tuesday. Jennifer Faddis, the only current board member in the running, won her race for the Zone 2 seat against Gail Pianalto.

Tuesday's other victors included Joel Dunning in Zone 1 and Becky Guthrie in Zone 4.

Runoff elections will be necessary for two seats -- zones 3 and 5 -- where nobody received a majority of the votes cast in three-person contests. Runoffs are set for Dec. 6.

Dunning was endorsed by the 1776 Project, a group that describes itself on its website as dedicated to electing school board members nationwide who want to promote patriotism and pride in U.S. history.

The 1776 Project put out a mailer to promote five candidates it endorsed, urging voters to support the "pro-parent" ticket and to stop progressive activists who "want to indoctrinate your children."

The School Board has seven members. Until this year, each member represented a specific zone of the School District; the board agreed to restructure itself so five positions are based on geographic zones and two are at-large. Residents therefore get to vote for their zone representative and for both of the at-large members when those seats come up for election.

Once the board is seated after the November elections, members will draw a term length ranging from one to five years so their terms will be staggered. Board members normally serve five-year terms.

School board positions are nonpartisan and unpaid in Arkansas.

Zone 1

Erron Smith and Dunning, both political newcomers, were on the the ballot for the seat.

Complete but unofficial results show Dunning leading Smith.

Dunning 3,980

Smith 3,530

Dunning, 62, said he has ideas to help schools get "back to the basics" of education.

"We need to focus on what we want our students to know and be able to do," he said. "How do we know they have learned it? What are we going to do for the students that have not learned it?"

Dunning is an electrical engineer for Unity Energy and a retired educator.

Zone 1 covers the part of Bella Vista east of Bella Vista Way along with much of north and northeast Bentonville.

Zone 2

Faddis hoped to retain her seat but faced a challenge from political newcomer Pianalto.

Complete but unofficial results show Faddis leading Pianalto.

Faddis 3,941

Pianalto 2,894

Faddis, 49, would like to expand the district's Ignite program, which allows high school students extensive time to explore a particular career area. Increasing teacher pay and improving parental involvement are two of her other main goals, she said.

Faddis was elected to the board in 2020, when she defeated Jim Parsons of Bella Vista. She is a Christian counselor for Still Waters Family Counseling.

Zone 2 covers Bella Vista west of Bella Vista Way and stretches south to Vaughn Road in southwest Bentonville, incorporating north and west Centerton as well.

Zone 3

Three political newcomers were vying for the seat: Jeremy Farmer, Blanca Maldonado and Matthew Smith.

There will be a runoff election Dec. 6 between Farmer and Maldonado.

Complete but unofficial results show Farmer leading Maldonado and Smith.

Farmer 1,793

Maldonado 1,570

Smith 1,344

Farmer, 40, said he'd like to expand on the district's offerings in programs such as Ignite, which allows high school students to explore a particular career area in depth. He also wants to increase school safety and find new ways to support teachers.

Maldonado, 35, sees the proliferation of charter schools across the area as a challenge. While she supports school choice, she said officials must make sure the same funding and waivers given to charter schools are accessible to traditional public schools as well.

Farmer is a senior account manager at Launch Marketing Education. Maldonado a is a project manager at AMP Sign & Banner in Bentonville.

Zone 3 covers most of east Bentonville, stretching from Tiger Boulevard at its northernmost point to Southwest Gator Boulevard on the south end.

Zone 4

Guthrie and Tim Rosenau faced off for this seat.

Complete but unofficial results show Guthrie beating Rosenau.

Guthrie 3,622

Rosenau 1,721

Guthrie, 47, said she ran for the board to give parents a voice on the board, to stand up for students and support teachers.

A teacher shortage is a problem the board must tackle, she said. She would like to evaluate policies that include personal and sick days, and find ways to reward teachers for their professionalism.

Guthrie is a homemaker and former teacher.

Zone 4 covers most of west and northwest Bentonville, starting at Walton Boulevard and extending as far west as Main Street in Centerton.

Zone 5

Tatum Aicklen, Yoselin Bolivar and Letisha Hinds were the three candidates for this seat. There will be a runoff election between Aicklen and Hinds.

Complete but unofficial results show Aicklen leading Hinds and Bolivar.

Aicklen 2,677

Hinds 1,925

Bolivar 1,921

Aicklen, 44, said she's running because her experiences as a parent of four in the School District and a longtime school volunteer qualify her to bring a strong parent perspective to board discussions and decisions.

"Through my various positions on PTO boards, I have worked with parents, teachers and administrators organizing numerous efforts to engage our families and support our teachers and staff," Aicklen said.

Hinds, 33, said she's running because she wants to represent the community and schools.

"I hear our teachers when they say they do not make enough money to afford the cost of living in Bentonville," she said. "I see our students and families, from all backgrounds, who look at their leaders and representatives and do not see themselves. I want to change that."

Aicklen is a homemaker. Hinds is an associate merchant for Walmart in the stationery department.

Zone 5 covers the southern portion of the School District, including south Bentonville, Cave Springs, Highfill and part of Rogers.

Mike Jones can be reached by email at [email protected]

  photo  Erron Smith, candidate for Bentonville School Board, Zone 1
  photo  Joel Dunning, candidate for Bentonville School Board, Zone 1
  photo  Jennifer Faddis, candidate for Bentonville School Board, 2020
  photo  Gail Pianalto, candidate for Bentonville School Board, Zone 2
  photo  Matthew Smith
  photo  Blanca Maldonado
  photo  Jeremy Farmer
  photo  Tim Rosenau, candidate for Bentonville School Board, Zone 4
  photo  Becky Guthrie, candidate for Bentonville School Board, Zone 4
  photo  Tatum Aicklen, candidate for Bentonville School Board Zone 5
  photo  Yoselin Bolivar, candidate for Bentonville School Board, Zone 5
  photo  Letisha Hinds, candidate for Bentonville School Board, Zone 5

Print Headline: 2 elected to Bentonville School Board


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