Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Fish Story Contest 🎣 Asa Hutchinson 2024 Today's Photos Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Puzzles Crime Distribution Locations Obits

Bentonville School Board Zone 3 has three candidates seeking seat in election

by Dave Perozek | October 21, 2022 at 4:30 a.m.
Voters in Zone 3 of the School District will choose next month from among three political newcomers vying for a School Board seat: Jeremy Farmer (from left), Blanca Maldonado and Matthew Smith.

BENTONVILLE -- Voters in Zone 3 of the School District will choose next month from among three political newcomers vying for a School Board seat: Jeremy Farmer, Blanca Maldonado and Matthew Smith.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election Dec. 6 between the top two finishers.

The election is Nov. 8. Early voting starts Monday.

The Bentonville 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 get to vote for their zone representative and for both of the at-large members when those seats come up for election.

Each of the five zoned seats are up for election this year. 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.

Zone 3 covers most of east Bentonville, stretching from Tiger Boulevard at its northernmost point to Southwest Gator Boulevard on the south end. The downtown area and Bentonville High School are included in Zone 3.

School board positions are nonpartisan and unpaid in Arkansas.


Farmer believes his experiences as a PTO president, a volunteer in the schools, and past president and board member of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Northwest Arkansas have prepared him to be an effective School Board member.

He 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.

"Competitive compensation is a must, but finding ways to support them in the classroom and to give them back time is important, too," Farmer said.

Funding is the most important issue facing the district over the next five years, he said, adding the district needs support from legislators to fix the inequity of how funding is allocated to school districts; specifically, the Title I distribution model needs to change. Title I funds assist schools in meeting the educational needs of students living near or at poverty levels.

The last few years have been challenging for the board and administrators, but Farmer said he believes they did the best they could with the information and regulations they had.


Maldonado said she's running for the board because marginalized communities in Bentonville deserve representation.

"Bentonville is around 11% Latinx, and while that is a small percentage and growing, we can all be better when everyone has a seat at the table," she said.

Maldonado 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.

She'd like to see the School District take steps to "go green," pointing to the example set by the Batesville School District, which set up solar panels and put the money saved on energy into teacher raises.

"Our teachers deserve to make a living wage, and, if we need to, let's get creative on how to attain those funds," Maldonado said.

She was impressed by how the district navigated the covid-19 pandemic.

"Anytime there was a problem the district came up with a creative solution," Maldonado said. "For example, when covid exposed the inequities of internet access, the Bentonville School District set up free Wi-Fi spots throughout the city. They kept in mind the safety and health of their students, teachers and staff."


Smith's platform is rooted in representing all members of the community, and his wish is to bring a stronger voice for "parental rights" to the board.

Board members overall have done a good job, especially in hiring teachers, he said. But Smith was among those who disagreed with the board's decision in August 2021 to implement a district-wide mask mandate. A group of parents sued the district over the mandate, and a local judge sided with the parents, temporarily halting the mandate.

The district appealed Benton County Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan's decision, and, in April, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed her ruling.

The district "compounded the problem when they decided to fight the parents suing to stop the policy," Smith said.

He said he learned to be a "servant leader" while in the Marine Corps and has continued providing service to others during his career in health care as an emergency medical technician and a nurse.

"I can read, comprehend and articulate medical information and understand the impact these decisions have on the physical and mental health" of students, Smith said.

He said the district has benefited from a strong economy in recent years, but, if the economy goes downhill, "It will be important to have board members who can comprehend the resulting issues, and who can work collaboratively to minimize the impact, but still be able to provide the high-quality education that the community demands."

Bentonville School Board

 Zone 3

Jeremy Farmer

Age: 40

Residency: Bentonville, lifelong resident

Occupation: Senior account manager at Launch Marketing

Education: Attended Northwest Arkansas Community College

Political Experience: None

Blanca Maldonado

Age: 35

Residency: Bentonville for three years

Occupation: Project manager at AMP Sign & Banner in Bentonville

Education: Attended the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Political Experience: None

Matthew Smith

Age: 44

Residency: Bentonville

Occupation: Registered nurse

Education: Master of business administration degree in health care management, bachelor’s degree in nursing, both from Western Governors University

Political Experience: None


Print Headline: 3 in hunt for School Board Zone 3 seat


Sponsor Content