The Bentonville superintendent talks about the upcoming millage election, the future of technology in the district, and why he believes two athletic facilities will not hurt the football program.
ON FIRST YEAR AS SUPERINTENDENT...
"This is the type of school district where you have to be a superintendent that's ready to be active. Obviously there have been a lot of different things that we've had to tackle in my first year. One of them is boundaries and adjusting for that. Boundary adjustment really came because we're building new schools to handle our growth.
ON MILL REQUEST...
-- did independent survey during Christmas holidays
-- 57% of those who responded said they wanted 2nd high school at 7.3 mills
-- District got it down to current request of 6.7 mills
"We went and sharpened our pencil and found different ways of how we could sell our bonds, and as a result of that we got the millage down to 6.7. So the community in an independent survey done during the holidays said 7.3, and we've now got it down to 6.7 and we're excited about that because we think it's an even more attractive number to voters because it's still a tough economic time, yet we have a real need to move forward and try to handle this growth issue."
ON TOTAL BOND PROPOSAL BEING SO HIGH...
-- $128.8 million total
"Question: Help me understand why that number is bigger than say Harber's was?
Answer: Well, several things. One is the property values have decreased over that time. And that actually is impacting even on some of our needs on why we're going for HVAC units as part of this millage campaign. Because we're getting less and less money coming into our school district so it's harder for us to keep up with HVAC units as well as technology. So we needed to have a little bit of extra money to come in just for those things to support the entire school district because property values have gone down."
ON CONFIDENCE VOTE WILL PASS...
"Question: Are you guys confident that the voters when they come out will support? Or are you kinda nervous?
Answer: I think it's one of these ones that as anyone who is in support of this, we need to have an edge to us. And by that I mean we don't want to take anything for granted. We want to make sure that we get our message out of the need."
ON 9TH GRADE CENTER DEBACLE...
"That whole thing was very divisive. You knew there was a strong group that wanted a 9th grade center, and you knew there was a strong group that wanted the second high school and they battled it out in public and it put our board in an awkward position, too. That's why I did the independent survey, was that I really felt that we needed to get a little more of a data point to say what is it that the community will stand behind? And the community, through that survey showed the majority of people wanted that second high school."
ON WHAT HAPPENS IF MILLAGE DOESN'T PASS...
-- will have to go to split schedules
-- will add portables to the campus
-- will come back to the community again for another vote
"Anybody who's actually lived through split schedules hates it. And there are people throughout this country who have had to use split schedules. Typically that means the seniors will come in, the seniors and juniors, at the first part of the day. They might be in school from 7 to 1 o'clock. And then the sophomores and freshman come in later in the day. And they may show up at 12 and stay til 6 o'clock. So there is a little bit of an overlap typically, and then you're using your building as effectively as possible because you just can't get them all in to one place. But I'll guarantee any community that's ever gone to split scheduling, the most they ever last is two to three years, and they try to get out of it as quick as possible. Because it just doesn't work for families very well. It puts them in really weird situations. So they don't care for it."
"The reality that all of our community needs to understand is, we'll come back to you again. That may sound weird, but if you think that we're going to just finish here, and if we were to get a no that we wouldn't come back, we're going to come back because there is a need at this school. This is needs based. This isn't like trying to be frivolous. We've got to come up with a solution for growth, and if we aren't successful here we're going to have to come back, and at that time I don't know if the bond market will be as favorable. Will construction costs be higher? Will property values go up and so it impacts even more to the property owner? All those things are possible.
ON COST OF TECHNOLOGY...
Technology Improvements = $6,000,000
Annual Technology = $530,000
"Go watch you're 3 year old. Go watch you're 6 year old. Give them your cell phone. Give them an iPad. And you're going to be a little bit afraid, because your going to say don't touch my stuff. But those kids can go places that we can't even think about, all just instant. It's not a challenge for them at all."
ON FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY...
"Technology is always going to be changing, but we've got to create an infrastructure that can support the changes and allow as parents go buy their kids iPhones and stuff. They can do things on that iPhone that computers 20 years ago could only dream of."
ON FUTURE OF PROJECT BASED LEARNING....
"I envision a high school where kids actually become problem solvers. And it's not just Bentonville high school working together, maybe we're hooked in with Fayetteville, maybe we're connected with some schools down in the delta in lower Arkansas, or maybe we're with an inner city somewhere in the United States and kids are working on project based learning, and it's a company like Tyson that comes to us and says here's our biggest problem. Kids, why don't you solve it? And I guarantee our kids will come up with some amazing ways of how to deliver it. Allow them to do the research. Allow them to do the legal aspect. Allow them to develop the written papers to support it and the business plans. That's preparing kids for a future that will serve our community well."
ON WHY TWO SEPERATE SPORTS FACILITIES...
"Arkansas in many ways dictates a little bit as a state of how we operate. When was the last time you heard of a high school football game on a Saturday night? It just doesn't happen. Games are played on Friday night. Mainly because we're in SEC country I think. Many of us that come from other parts of the world, we're used to multiple schools playing in one facility, but in Arkansas that doesn't necessarily happen, mainly because the expectation for high school football is basically it's a Friday night deal. And what that does is it's a positive. You can look at it as a negative, but the positive is it becomes a community event. Our high school football game right now packs it, an hour before the game our stadium is full, and so we think the same kind of environment will be created at our new high school, and it really creates the creative environment that you have to have in Arkansas."
ON DETAILS OF THE NEW FOOTBALL STADIUM...
"We are going to probably use some private funds to support this facility as well. We're also going to do some things that are going to be a little bit different. This time the football stadium will also have a track environment inside the football stadium, as well as it will be allowed to play soccer inside there. That way in the spring the stadium will be used year round."
ON KEEPING THE FOOTBALL PROGRAM COMPETITIVE....
"We're really proud of our athletic program and we've got a great football tradition here, we've won 3 out of the last 5 state championships. We've won 9 state championships this year in all the other sports. Man, I'm so proud. But one of the things that is a part of that is we have great parents that really have their kids involved at early ages and are preparing them for athletics. Second thing is we have fantastic coaches. And I don't see that changing. Bentonville is a place that people want to work. And I think that we're always going to attract some of the top coaches, and our community expectation of having excellent programs is not going to go away I don't think. I mean that's what this community expects. If you have athletes prepared, you have great coaches, and you have a high expectation, that's a winning formula. Are we going to win state championships every year? No. But we don't win state championships every year. We didn't win in football this year. Fayetteville beat us. But we know in this type of community, year in and year out, we should have a very competitive environment."