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BENTONVILLE -- School District leaders and others will gather Thursday to discuss how to improve the community for children.

The meeting will include School Board members along with representatives from the business and faith communities. Rich Harwood, founder and president of The Harwood Institute, will lead the discussion.

Harwood has met with various people in the community already, said Michael Poore, School District superintendent.

"He landed on the fact there's a commonality among them, and that's helping kids," Poore said.

Poore and Sharon Orlopp, Wal-Mart's chief diversity officer, introduced the concept to the School Board in October. Wal-Mart is taking care of all related expenses, including bringing in Harwood, Poore said.

Orlopp will be part of Thursday's meeting. She wasn't available for comment Tuesday, according to a Wal-Mart spokesman.

The meeting will start at 5 p.m. at the School District's Administration Building. The public is welcome to attend, but there will be plenty of ways for the public to get involved later on, Poore said.

"This is very much at the ground level," he said.

Harwood and his organization are known for developing "public innovators" and spurring groups to address local challenges. Among his accomplishments is leading the community discussion in Newtown, Conn., over what to do with Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a man shot and killed 20 children and six adults in 2012.

The Rev. Roger Joslin, vicar at All Saints Episcopal Church in Bentonville, was one of several people from the community invited to participate in Thursday's meeting.

Joslin said there are clear needs in Benton County, but there also are resources to deal with those needs.

"I suspect the Harwood group goes into situations that are problematic in some way. We have issues that need to be addressed, but my take is we have tremendous opportunities that have been presented to us," Joslin said.

An aspect of the community that interests Joslin is its diversity, something that needs to be embraced, he said.

"How do we make the most of this diversity? We have a gift here," he said. "We have to find ways to cultivate those relationships."

Some of the others expected to participate in Thursday's meeting include Daniel Hintz, former director of Downtown Bentonville; Todd Kitchen, an administrator at Northwest Arkansas Community College; and Rob Lennick, a rabbi at Congregation Etz Chaim in Bentonville.

NW News on 01/28/2015

Print Headline: Meeting will focus on kids' needs

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