$24 Million Scholarship dollars offered to 2019 district seniors.
60% of 1,750 district teachers have master’s degrees or higher.
24 EAST programs in the district, more than any other district in the United States.
86 Advanced courses through AP, IB and concurrent classes.
Here is another in the series of feature stories on school board members.
School Board Member
Debbie Creek inadvertently launched her route to becoming a member of the Springdale Public Schools School Board by serving as a substitute. Not a substitute teacher. A substitute speaker.
Creek, controller at Harp’s Foods, was asked to substitute for Frank Ray as a Harp’s spokesperson at the annual Chamber of Commerce Teacher’s Appreciation Breakfast. Ray had to switch to another commitment shortly before he was supposed to attend the breakfast.
“I told Frank I wouldn’t talk about Harp’s,” Creek says. “Everyone in Springdale knows about Harp’s and how much the company supports Springdale Schools. I told him I would focus on the teachers and thank them for the great work they did.
“While I was teaching it struck me how much I love school, so I said, ‘I love school.’ That night I decided that since I love school I would go back and earn my master’s in business administration. That was in August, 2016. I enrolled in the MBA program at John Brown University in December of 2018 and was able to complete the work in 18 months.”
Speaking to the teachers motivated Creek to return to school but it also motivated a member of the audience to suggest Debbie should consider becoming a member of the school board.
“Kathy McFetridge and I were friends and she was a member of the school board for many years,” Creek explains. “She heard me say I love school. She was about to move and couldn’t run again for school board in her zone so she suggested I run for that spot. I was working on my MBA, had three kids in school and was working full time at Harp’s so it made me really nervous to think about running for school board.
“A short time later she stepped down so she could join the Arkansas School Board and I was appointed in her place. When I eventually ran I was unopposed and won the election, 2-0. My husband, Curtis, and I were the only ones who voted.”
Creek is grateful Harp’s believes in community involvement and allows her to serve on three boards.
“I’m also on the Chamber of Commerce and Springdale Public Schools Education Foundation boards,” says Creek. “I’m grateful to Harp’s for being so supportive. I had always been involved in PTA and booster clubs but Harp’s lets me go to school board lunches, work sessions and regular school board meetings. Harp’s is a big supporter of Springdale Schools.”
School board lunches are among Creek’s favorite activities. She notes, “My goal is to never miss a school board lunch because the school administrators and teachers take time to prepare for us and I want to be there. I’ve only missed two since I’ve been on the board. I remember going to one and having a student tell me, ‘We have some very important people coming to our school today.’ It’s great that they feel that way.
“At the lunches I love seeing what our kids are doing. They do amazing things. Our schools provide so many opportunities for students. That’s the advantage of being in a large district. I went to school in Huntsville. It’s a wonderful district but we didn’t have all the activities that are available in Springdale.”
Creek enjoys sharing Springdale’s opportunities with members of other districts.
“Last December we were in Little Rock for a state school board meeting,” she remembers. “Nick Emerson and I did a presentation with Dr. Marcia Smith on how to increase involvement in the schools by school board members. We told them about the school board lunches and everyone there was blown away that we spent so much time in the schools.”
Spending time in school is something Creek has always liked. She credits her parents.
“My dad was very intelligent but only finished the eighth grade,” Creek says. “My mom finished high school but didn’t get a college degree. Education was very important to both of them. I was the fourth of eight children and we grew up on a dairy farm in Clifty. We all had chores and they weren’t just making our beds and keeping our rooms clean. We milked cows twice a day.
“Even though he had only gone to school through the eighth grade and he was operating a dairy farm, my dad always wanted to learn. If any of us couldn’t locate a textbook to do our homework, dad may have been studying it. So, my parents gave all of us a strong work ethic and desire to learn. All eight of us earned college degrees, five, including myself, from the University of Arkansas, two from the University of Tulsa and one from Arkansas State.”
Springdale has taken care of Creek’s children. She and Curtis have five between them. Three have graduated from Springdale High School, one is a senior at SHS this year and the other is a sophomore at the Don Tyson School of Innovation. Curtis has served Springdale Schools for 11 years and currently serves as an instructional assistant in physical education at Harp Elementary.
“We are proud of all our kids and are grateful to Springdale Schools for the education they have received,” Creek says. “Our oldest is an officer in the Air Force. Our two daughters who graduated from SHS are in nursing. One is a registered nurse and the other will be an RN after she finishes the nursing program at Arkansas Tech.”
Of course, Creek is still learning, too. She has her CPA license, is a certified fraud examiner and loves to listen to audio books when she is driving. She’s even considering a doctorate program in accounting. She and the rest of the school board members are among the reasons Springdale Public Schools are #THEChoice.
Abbie Russell of Childers Knapp Elementary was in Little Rock for the celebration of Arkansas Teacher of the Year. She was among the 12 regional finalists. She was not among the four finalists who were named but was honored with the other 11 regional finalists. Joel Lookadoo, the 2020 Arkansas Teacher of the Year who is currently at the Don Tyson School of Innovation and earned the award while at Lakeside Junior High, met with Russell, who also had her family present. Lookadoo introduced the regional finalists and announced the four finalists at the event. Great teachers help make Springdale Public Schools #THEChoice
This is a feature story on School Board Vice President Randy Hutchinson.
School Board Vice President
The current longest tenured school board member is a Springdale High School graduate who might never have been involved in Springdale Schools if his father hadn’t done research on the district. Randy Hutchinson’s basketball skills landed him at Southwest Junior High and to eventually becoming an all-state basketball player at SHS.
“I didn’t know this until many years later but while we were in the process of moving from Fort Smith to Northwest Arkansas my father researched all the schools in the area to find out who the best junior high basketball coach was,” explains Hutchinson, who is beginning his 14th year on the school board. “He knew I was tall, had big hands and feet and could be a good basketball player.
“Dad discovered that Steve Price at Southwest was the best junior high basketball coach in Northwest Arkansas. I also played the tuba and Noel Morris was the Southwest band director. He was excellent as well. So, we bought a house in Springdale and I was ready to go to Southwest.”
Hutchinson almost didn’t make it to Southwest, though. His parents thought they had moved into Southwest’s zone but it turned out their home was zoned to Central Junior High even though it was two miles closer to Southwest than Central.
“Dad asked for a transfer and he took me to see Dr. (then Superintendent Jim) Rollins,” Hutchinson recalls. “I was about to be an eighth grader and went in to see him by myself. I explained the situation. He couldn’t have been nicer. He signed the form and I was enrolled at Southwest.”
He spent two happy years at Southwest, playing basketball, football for coach Bruce Matthews and tuba in the band. He enjoyed all three activities but his father advised him to choose only one as he began high school.
“Dad suggested basketball, so that’s what I did,” Hutchinson remembers. “That didn’t make Pat Ellison (band director) or Jarrell Williams (football coach) very happy. I was going to be a tight end in football. If I have one regret about my time at Springdale High, it’s that I didn’t play football.”
Hutchinson thought he would be playing basketball for coach Dwight Gilbert but before Hutchinson’s sophomore campaign, Gilbert took another job. Jim Hamilton became the coach. Hutchinson still had a wonderful career, starting his entire junior (except for one game) and senior seasons and enduring when several players decided to leave the program.
He thought he had a future in basketball until he spent his freshman year at John Brown University and saw very little playing time. He decided to transfer to the University of Arkansas where he earned a degree in business.
“I met my wife, Cynthia, while I was at the UA,” Hutchinson says. “We had a late winter storm and I was at our fraternity house when Cynthia and a couple of her friends came by. She was competing in the Miss UA pageant. My ex-girlfriend had competed in several pageants so I was well versed in them. That prompted conversation with Cynthia. We clicked, had a date a week later and have been hanging out ever since.”
Ever since is 29 years of marriage. That’s a year less than Hutchinson has worked for Shelter Insurance.
“My mom had been working with Steve Harp, a Shelter agent, for years,” Hutchinson says. “Steve heard Shelter was hiring and, unbeknownst to me, put my name in the hat. I had accepted a job with Dillard’s and was about to go into management training in Little Rock. Walmart had talked to me about a job but I would have had to start in Grove, Oklahoma, so I accepted Dillard’s instead.
“I got a call from Shelter telling me there was a claims adjuster position opening. It sounded pretty neat so I interviewed and got the job. It was hard calling Dillard’s to tell them I wasn’t coming. They’ve managed to do all right without me.
“After a little more than six years as a claims adjuster, I became an agent. I love working with people and, since several of my clients are UA international students, I can truthfully say I insure people from all over the world. Shelter has been a great company to work for. It’s all I’ve ever known. I have many friends who have had four or five jobs in the 30 years I have been with Shelter.”
Settled in Northwest Arkansas, happily married and raising three boys, Hutchinson was invited by his good friend and SHS classmate Mike Luttrell to run for a position on the school board. Luttrell was moving and could not run for his zoned position on the board.
“Mike knew how involved I was with our sons’ booster clubs and PTAs,” says Hutchinson. “He thought I should run. I didn’t know anything about what school boards did. I had met Dr. Rollins as an eighth grader but I didn’t know anyone else on the administrative staff.
“I met with Mike and Annette (now Thompson) Freeman, who was principal at George Elementary where our sons had all attended. They convinced me to run. I was unopposed. I think the vote was 2-0 since my wife and I were the only ones who voted.”
Once he joined the board, he was immediately intimidated. He recalls, “Doug Sprouse, Jim Van Bebber, Robert Farrell and Jim Bradford were on the board at the time. They were all extremely successful. I wondered what I had gotten into. I just listened. I really enjoyed it, though.
“When I started, Andrew was 12, Matthew was nine and Sam was eight. Now Andrew covers the Razorbacks for Rivals, Matthew works in Springdale and Sam just graduated from the UA and was just accepted into the master’s program for Supply Chain Management.
“So, they’ve been out of Springdale Schools for four years but I still enjoy going into the schools and meeting the students and teachers. Plus, Cynthia and I do photography and take photos at athletic events and other venues. It keeps us young and gives us a chance to stay plugged in. It would be great to have another 13 years on the board. I am a Springdale guy through and through.”
Also a member of the Arkansas School Board Association board who has been nominated for secretary-treasurer which, if he is elected, will lead to eventually being board president, Randy Hutchinson is a member of a strong school board that helps make Springdale Public Schools #THEChoice.
An array of opportunities from gifted and talented to early college experiencesRead more about Accelerated Programs
Community supported teams for any student with a passion to build skills and competeRead more about Athletics
Thriving in a safe environment, students are creatively engaged within a schedule that meets family needsRead more about Before and After School Programs
Workforce and career development, including professional certifications, earned through hands-on experiencesRead more about Career and Technical Education
Over 150 businesses partner with our 31 schools to build a strong communityRead more about Community Partnerships
Cutting edge opportunities in coding, cyber security, and many other classes,starting as early as kindergartenRead more about Computer Science
The largest Pre-K program in the state sets up your young scholar for academic, emotional, and social successRead more about Early Childhood
The largest Pre-K program in the state sets up your young scholar for academic, emotional, and social successRead more about EAST
Parents and students develop communication skills together in the largest family literacy program in the United States.Read more about English Language Programs
Providing increased access to vital healthcare for our families and the community.Read more about On-Site Health Clinic
Providing a device for each child to extend learning opportunitiesRead more about One-to-One Technology
Teaching the whole child in an outdoor environment makes for happier, healthier, and more enthusiastic learnersRead more about OutDoor Classrooms
Highly competitive teams blending science and engineering with a focus on design, construction, and operation.Read more about Robotics
Leading the state in assisting students and families to achieve continued educational success.Read more about Scolarships
Collaborating with families to ensure Special Education opportunities for every child’s unique learning abilities.Read more about Special Services
Dedicated to making sure students have healthy eating opportunities in the summer months.Read more about Summer Lunch Programs
Nationally recognized multimedia program challenging students in the digital arts.Read more about Video Productions
An accredited virtual or blended learning environment with engaging on-campus opportunitiesRead more about Virtual Schools