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Five seats up for vote in Greenwood school election

by Thomas Saccente | May 11, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Among candidates seeking a seat on the Greenwood School Board are (clockwise from top left) Cliff James, Jamie Brown, Lydia Trieu Whetstone, Stephanie Griffith, Bradley Kremers and Tara Kappler.

GREENWOOD -- Residents have 10 candidates from which to choose across five contested races in this year's School Board election.

The candidates are competing for these unpaid positions in the annual School Board election May 24. Early voting began Monday.

A total of 12 candidates filed to run for the seven positions on the Greenwood School Board, according to the Sebastian County Clerk's Office. However, Elysa Turner and Brad Johnson are running unopposed for the Zone 3 and 7 positions respectively. Johnson was first elected to the School Board in 2014, according to the Greenwood School District website.

Suzanne Wilson, assistant superintendent for the Greenwood School District, said Tuesday all the positions on the School Board were at-large seats prior to this election. The term lengths for each of these positions have not yet been determined, although previous terms were for five years.

The candidates in the contested races were each asked the same questions via email.

Zone 1

Stephanie Griffith, who was appointed to the School Board in June, said she retired after serving as an educator for 36 years. She has a son and daughter who both graduated from the school district in 2004 and 2007 respectively.

Griffith said she believes she brings an educator's perspective and experience to the School Board. She also thinks that while Greenwood has a great school system, it can always be improved.

"As your board member, I will work to ensure our schools are safe and caring environments with the values, standards and high expectations of our community," Griffith said. "I will strive to plan for the future and support budgets that keep what is best for students at the forefront."

Griffith said other ideas she feels are important include long-term plans for growth, increasing student achievement, growing reading proficiency, and supporting and celebrating students in all programs for success after graduation, as well as ensuring parents and stakeholders understand how to voice their concerns to the board.

Jamie Brown is the owner and operator of Brownstone Development in Greenwood. Brown has a son enrolled in the seventh grade at Greenwood Junior High School. He has three younger children who are currently home-schooled, with the oldest of these, a son, set to attend Greenwood Junior High School starting next semester.

Brown said he enjoys serving his community and loves both the Greenwood school system and the city itself. He believes he would bring a fresh perspective with new ideas to the board while retaining the "excellence Greenwood demands" if elected.

Brown said his priorities would be the rights of parents of students in the district; encouraging parental involvement, support, and encouragement of teachers and staff; and review of the curriculum in the district.

"All of these issues relate directly back to the student's success here at Greenwood, which is the most important priority of all," Brown said. "Greenwood has always been a great place to live with a top-notch school. I want to help continue that tradition."

Zone 2

Clifton "Cliff" James said he works as a fuel sales manager at Frost Oil Co. in Van Buren and youth minister at Greenwood United Methodist Church. He has a daughter who graduated from the School District in 2018 and a son who is a sophomore at Greenwood High School.

James, who was first elected to the School Board in 2011, said serving on the board is a way for him to serve his community. He both understands the requirements of being a board member and has a "proven record of devotion and stability" for the district, he said.

James said one of his priorities if reelected would be to maintain a culture of continued improvement in the district. An element paramount in his decision-making is providing an environment to educate all students at a high level.

"Another area of focus is managing the growth of our district with respect to facilities and personnel," James said. "We have to continue to provide first-in-class facilities for learning and be able to attract and retain the best educators and administration in the region."

Brian Jones is the supervisor of inbound marketing for ArcBest in Fort Smith and the co-founder and chief financial officer of Warriors Guild Inc. The website for the latter describes it as an online, holistic discipleship program for young men with the goal to "empower boys to become Godly, courageous men while fostering a strong bond with their parent, guardian or group."

Jones said he has a son in fifth grade and a daughter in first grade in the School District. He wants to serve on the School Board to be a strong and courageous voice for the rights of parents, education of students, well-being of teachers and morale of staff, he said. One of his other priorities would be to uphold the virtue of the Greenwood community, he said.

"I feel the priorities I listed should be the most important issues confronting our School Board, our School District, as well as every other school board and district in the nation," Jones said. "If elected, I will not use my position to conform to the world at the expense of common sense."

Zone 4

Tara Kappler is a cosmetologist at Rick's 66th Street Salon in Fort Smith with two children in the School District: a daughter in seventh grade and a son in kindergarten.

Kappler said she would visit the district schools frequently if elected. This would enable her to become more familiar with the needs of students, parents, teachers and staff, she said. She added that she would also work to bring an open line of communication with the community and schools.

"One area that sets me apart from others is the ability to bring representation for special education from a parent's perspective," Kappler said. "Having two children on different sides of the educational systems, I know from first-hand experience just how different the two can be. I also know that one can be much more challenging to maneuver, and I would be able to offer insight on ways to help smooth that pathway when needed."

Kappler said her top priority would be to work with other School Board members to secure a platform to allow community members to watch livestreamed board meetings wherever they are.

Greg Hasley is the co-owner of both Prime Acres Forestry & Land Management in Fort Smith and rental properties. He has one daughter who is a sophomore in the School District, along with five other children who have previously graduated from there.

Although Hasley was appointed to his current position on the School Board in 2017, he was also a board member from 2007-2014. His main priority if reelected would be to continue putting the children and their education first in the board's decision-making for the policies of the district, he said.

"I would like to continue to provide leadership and support to the district to help to further the success of the students, teachers and administrators," Hasley said in his email. "The awards the district has received since I have been privileged to serve on the board are too numerous to list here."

Hasley said he also feels as if his past experience as a board member and having six children attend the School District, as well as his business experience, uniquely qualify him to serve the district.

Zone 5

Todd Hales is the minister for Northside Church of Christ in Greenwood. He has had three children graduate from the School District.

Hales said he was on the School Board from 2007-2021 and would like to continue serving students and staff in that capacity. He argued more than six of those years were spent as president of the board, during which he developed a good understanding of state laws relating to how the board should operate.

Hales said he believes one of his main contributions to the board is to be a conservative voice in the creation of policies to enhance the educational experience of all students.

"For many years our School District has been recognized as one of the very best in the state," Hales said. "After serving on the Greenwood School Board for almost 14 years, I know the most important work of a board member is to support the students, staff and administration by providing calm, respectful leadership that reflects the values of our community. I have no agenda, no ax to grind nor personal issues to advance."

Lydia Trieu Whetstone is a stay-at-home mother with a daughter in fourth grade and a son in first grade who aren't enrolled in the district. Her daughter will start East Hills Middle School this fall.

Whetstone said she aims to be a voice for parents who want more direct interaction with School District officials, as well as provide transparency and support for teachers and staff. She said she could bring her years of experience as a practicing attorney licensed in Arkansas, mother and active community member to the board.

Whetstone said she would like to get School Board meetings livestreamed and recorded so the public can easily stay up-to-date on developments. She also plans to take a careful look when participating in the approval of curriculum to ensure students receive the best possible education while the district's yearly student enrollment continues to rise.

"As a board member, I would focus on fiscal responsibility as our district growth plan develops so our tax dollars are being used wisely," Whetstone said.

Zone 6

Bradley Kremers is a pilot and assistant director of operations at the 188th Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard in Fort Smith. He has three children in the School District, a son in third grade and twin daughters in first grade, with another son set to start kindergarten.

Kremers said he wants to serve on the School Board to help be a catalyst for the district. He said he plans to develop a clear line of communication to ensure voters know he is available. He added he would also focus on what's best for all students, saying it's crucial the district's focus on the future in academics, athletics and the arts remains balanced.

"To ensure we provide a world-class education for our students and parents, I will ask the hard questions when needed, make sure that we are fiscally responsible in how our community's money is dispersed, drive our school to reach key milestones in the realization of our district strategic plan, ensure that our teachers, staff, and administrators are supported and appropriately funded, and help be an asset to the future growth of our community," Kremers said.

Kelli Griffith Henning is a community pharmacist for MediSav Homecare Pharmacy in Fort Smith. She has two sons who graduated from the School District in 2017 and 2020.

Henning, a School Board member since 2014, said she wants to continue serving because she believes in the strength of the public education system and the foundation it provides to students.

"As a pharmacist, I listen to the needs of patients, and I am part of a collaborative effort with the patient, their doctor and caregiver to achieve better health outcomes," Henning said. "I view the role of a school board as another collaborative approach to educate our children. The school board, the administration, teachers and community work together to help students achieve success in their education."

Henning said her top priority is making sure students have an environment to learn and achieve goals that will help them succeed in the future. To her, offering a strong curriculum and educators is vital to giving students the opportunity to find their purpose, she said.

Stephanie Griffith 

Age: 60

Residency: Greenwood resident for 49 years

Occupation: Retired educator

Education: Master of arts degree, Harding University; bachelor of science degree in education, Ouachita Baptist University

Political Experience: Appointed member of the Greenwood School Board since June 2021

Jamie Brown

Age: 40

Residency: Milltown/Washburn area, south of Greenwood; has lived in the Greenwood School District since 2013 after being born and raised in Greenwood

Occupation: Owner and operator of Brownstone Development in Greenwood

Education: Greenwood High School; attended Arkansas Tech University and John Brown University

Political Experience: None

Clifton “Cliff” James

Age: 51

Residency: Greenwood resident since 1973 except while attending Arkansas Tech University

Occupation: Fuel sales manager at Frost Oil Co. in Van Buren; youth minister at Greenwood United Methodist Church

Education: Bachelor of professional studies, Arkansas Tech University

Political Experience: Elected member of the Greenwood School Board since 2011

Brian Jones

Age: 39

Residency: Greenwood resident since 2008

Occupation: Supervisor of inbound marketing for ArcBest in Fort Smith; co-founder and chief financial officer of Warriors Guild Inc.

Education: Bachelor of science degree, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

Political Experience: None

Tara Kappler

Age: 32

Residency: Fort Smith resident since 2019

Occupation: Cosmetologist at Rick’s 66th Street Salon in Fort Smith

Education: Cosmetology operator certificate, Lamar University

Political Experience: None

Greg Hasley

Age: 57

Residency: Fort Smith; has lived in the Greenwood School District since 2004

Occupation: Co-owner of Prime Acres Forestry & Land Management in Fort Smith; co-owns rental properties

Education: Bachelor of arts degree, University of Arkansas

Political Experience: Appointed member of the Greenwood School Board since 2017; previously served on the School Board from 2007-2014 after being appointed in 2007 and elected in 2009

Todd Hales

Age: 54

Residency: Greenwood resident since 1994

Occupation: Minister for Northside Church of Christ in Greenwood

Education: Bachelor of science degree, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Political Experience: Appointed to the Sebastian County Solid Waste District Board in February 2022; elected to the Greenwood School Board first in September 2007, served until June 2021

Lydia Trieu Whetstone

Age: 37

Residency: Fort Smith; has lived in the Greenwood School District since May 2020

Occupation: Stay-at-home mother

Education: Juris doctor, bachelor of arts degree, University of Arkansas

Political Experience: None

Bradley Kremers

Age: 40

Residency: Greenwood; has lived in the Greenwood School District since 2013

Occupation: Pilot and assistant director of operations at the 188th Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard in Fort Smith

Education: Bachelor of science degree, Park University

Political Experience: None

Kelli Griffith Henning

Age: 51

Residency: Greenwood resident since 1974 except from 1989 to 1995 due to college

Occupation: Community pharmacist for MediSav Homecare Pharmacy in Fort Smith

Education: Doctor of pharmacy, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; completed prepharmacy curriculum at the University of Arkansas

Political Experience: Elected member of the Greenwood School Board since 2015, initially appointed in 2014


Print Headline: Five seats up for vote in Greenwood school election


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