At least 12 apply for open Fort Smith School Board post

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,238 views 

Twelve Fort Smith residents have applied to fill an open seat on the Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education. The Zone III position on the board was left vacant when Dee Blackwell resigned from the board June 19, citing family health challenges.

Blackwell was first elected to the board in March 2020, and she served as president of the board from June 2022 until her resignation. Her second term was set to expire in 2024.

At its regular board meeting June 19, the school board decided to advertise for the vacancy. The board agreed to accept resumes and cover letters from those in Zone III who wish to serve on the board. The deadline to apply was 4:30 p.m., July 10.

According to state law, the board has 30 days to appoint someone to fill the seat. All applicants for the position must live in Zone III, be a qualified registered voter of the school district, a U.S. citizen, lawfully registered to vote, and never have been convicted, plead guilty, or plead nolo contendere of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery, or other infamous crime.

The FSPS school board has called a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (July 12). Board vacancy is one of the items listed on the agenda, though it does not specify if a decision on who will be selected to fill the vacancy is expected. The board has until July 18 to fill the position. The board has a regular meeting scheduled July 17.

As of Monday (July 10) afternoon, 12 people had submitted applications for the position. Following are the applicants, listed alphabetically.

• Aimee Arzoumanian
retired as chief operating officer at Sparks Hospital in June 2019
“I would like to be a part of the vision, mission and strategic goals that are involved in the betterment of our students, faculty and schools in Fort Smith. I feel with my experience as an objective leader I can bring further diversity of opinions to the board. Additionally, this role is an important civil responsibility to serve our community that I would embrace,” Arzomanian said.

• Ariel Bentley
works for Home Instead Senior Care among positions
“I believe that I would make a great fit because not only does my son attend Fort Smith Schools. but I’ve always wanted to work in a field such as this and I have the drive to be a great fit,” Bentley said.

• Sandra Gay
a registered ICU nurse with Baptist Health-Fort Smith
“As a parent, I have enjoyed watching my own children blossom in the Fort Smith Public School District. My motivation for wanting to serve on the board is to play a small part in the growth and continued excellence of this district,” Gay said.
She said serving as a member of other boards that made decisions that impact the day to day lives of others has taught her what a rewarding experience it can be.

• Brittany George
job coach with Arkansas Support Network
“I truly love working with kids and love trying to make a difference in their lives. These kids are our future, and if I can help in any way of that, I will,” George said.

• Dr. Shelli Henehan
professor, coordinator of assessment and director of early childhood education at UAFS
“My mother was a product of FSPS and was also a school nurse in the district for over 20 years. I am a product of FSPS, Westark Community College and Leadership Fort Smith and would love to be a voice for the importance of the public school system,” Henehen said.
Three of her children have graduated from Fort Smith public schools and her youngest two are students at Chaffin Middle School and Southside High School.

• Dr. Holly Jennings
physician with Baptist Health-Fort Smith who served as chair of internal medicine at Arkansas College of Health Education in Fort Smith from 2017 to 2019
“I believe that an excellent, high-quality education is the single most valuable tool that makes it possible for an individual to reach his or her highest aspirations,” Jennings said. “Each grade level is foundational for success at the next level, and therefore, I advocate for the relentless pursuit of educational excellence at every grade level administered through the Fort Smith public school system.”

• Adam Kareus
lead pastor at River Valley Community Church
“I believe this would be a way I could serve my community and give back to the community in which I grew up. While I do not have any experience myself in education, I do have many people I am close with who are educators, and it is their passion which inspires me to apply for this position,” Kareus said.
His wife works for FSPS as an assistant principal and his brother served as a coach and teacher until his passing in 2022, Kareus said.

• Susan Krafft
executive director of the Babb Center for Career Services at UAFS
“I have always been drawn to serve – to give my time and talent where I can make a difference. As I have said many times, Fort Smith is the community that raised me, and I feel it is my obligation and responsibility to give back where I can. Since I haven’t won the lottery yet, giving of my time, skills, and talent is the best way for me to contribute,” Krafft said.
Communication, leadership, teamwork, compassion, and community service are all areas where Krafft believes she is skilled and experienced and which will allow her to contribute to the board.

• Leonnel Kouemo
senior technical advisor with NovellEdge Technology
“As a parent of three children at various levels of education, I am regularly aware of the challenges and the development needs the children face, and it would be a great honor to be closer to the platform that constantly invests time and resources to the betterment of our future leaders,” Kouemo said.

• Evelyn Reese
patient care assistant with Baptist Health and a substitute teacher for FSPS
Reese said she wants to serve on the school board in order “to be a voice in helping educate our children and advocate for the children and to be able to serve the children better and help in important decision making in regards to our children.”

• Dr. Jeffrey Shaver
professor of biology and biology education at University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
“As a board member, I would objectively advocate for the best interests of our students and families, our schools and our community. I am a career educator with extensive experience at the secondary and higher education levels. Additionally, as a father of a three-year-old son, I have a personal interest in the quality and wellbeing of our public schools,” Shaver said.

• Jeremy Wann
“I believe a well educated community is vital to the success of our community. I believe that I can bring a variety of education, work experience, and life experiences to this position. I have previously worked as a ‘guest,’ teaching at Fort Smith Public Schools, and currently teach classes as an adjunct at UAFS,” Wann said.