School Board Race Previewed, Early Voting Underway

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Early voting for the upcoming annual school election is now underway. The early voting period began at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12, and will run through 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18. The annual school election will be held the following day, Tuesday, Sept. 19. The only polling site will be the Piggott Community Center.

There is only one contested school board race in the county for patrons to decide when they go to the polls. Incumbent Hope Burns is facing a challenge from Steve Champ on the Piggott board, while the incumbents in both Rector and Corning are running unopposed.

Hope Burns

Hope Burns is seeking a third term on the Piggott School Board in next week's annual election. She is facing challenger Steve Champ.

A native and resident of Piggott, she is married to Darrell Burns and they both graduated PHS in 1985. Her daughter, Brittney Pike, graduated from Piggott High in 2006; her son, Baylor Burkman is a 2016 PHS grad and her daughter, Brielle Burkman, is a junior at PHS and will be a member of the class of 2019. One of her step-sons, Ethan Burns, graduated Piggott High in 2013 while his brother, Josef, is a Rector grad of the class of 2007. She also has a grandson, Kyle Burns, in kindergarten at Piggott Elementary School.

“In the 10 years I've served on the Piggott School Board we've completed a major building project, made improvement to facilities and increased the technology available to the teachers and students,” she noted. “We've also managed faculty and staff to provide quality instruction to our students, and I hae attended multiple training conferences, and discussions, that provided insight to how a school board can best serve its district.”

In looking ahead to the next five years, the length of the term on the board, she noted there will be a number of challenges.

“Motivating our students to learn the skills necessary to be college and career ready—and to be productive members in society,” she said of the job at hand. “With the shortage of new teachers, it will continue to be difficult to find highly-qualified teachers that are willing to come to smaller, rural schools. We have to provide a good atmosphere for both teachers and students to get the best possible educational experience that we can give them.”

She also pointed to the importance of interacting with parents, and other members of the community, in an effort to promote support in building a community of learning.

Burns noted the key topic of interest for most voters is the district's money.

“Often, the public doesn't understand the priorities of needed projects, such as those in the facilities plan,” she explained. “And, there are desired projects intended to better the properties at both campuses.”

She indicated the feedback she has received over the years is clear. “Voters and parents want good administration and faculty as they interact with the students on a daily basis,” she added. “I'm also very concerned with the safety of our students, and I feel very strongly that our district needs a resource officer.”

Burns concluded by noting that she feels the groundwork has been laid for future success.

“The key to learning is good, strong leadership, and I believe we have that in our schools,” she concluded.

Steve Champ

Steve Champ is a candidate for Piggott School Board in next week's annual school election. He's challenging incumbent Hope Burns for a five year term.

Champ is a long-time local resident and PHS grad. “I have lived in worked around Piggott for some 60 years plus, I attended grade school in Piggott and graduated from Piggott High School in 1970.”

Upon graduation from Piggott High he attended an electronics trade school in Little Rock.

“I also attended ASU two years before coming back to the farm,” he added. “My father was also active in Piggott Schools, serving as principal at Southeast (Carryville) and also teaching veterans. My mother also worked in the cafeteria in the school system.”

He noted that his sister, Mary Margaret, his brother, Charles, as well as niece Tami Mann all graduated from Piggott. “My children, Kerry and Jennifer, also attended Piggott Schools and at present I have four grandsons—Alex a senior, Dillon a seventh grader, and Will and Wes are both second graders in this school system,” he explained.

Champs wife, Katherine, was also a teacher for 38 years.

In seeking the job on school board he points to his related work background.

“I have had several jobs over the years which provided me with good management skills,” he offered. “I worked at Riceland Foods for 11 years, where I was over the maintenance department, I also trained in grading grains into the facility where I dealt with the public in a one-on-one basis.”

Currently, Champ operates a small construction company—a business he has owned since 2000.

“During this time I have dealt with the State Highway Department, Corp of Engineers and other businesses and building companies—all with multiple employees under my supervision,” he added.

In looking ahead to the challenges facing the local district in the next five years, the length of the term he's seeking, he offers. “Maintenance of buildings and property is going to be one of the biggest, along with finances and dealing with regulations from the state.”

Champ is also concerned about keeping qualified teachers and administrators, and “maintaining or increasing our current student population by working with community leaders to get more jobs in our district.”

In reviewing the issues which he feels are key to the patrons of the district he offered, “first, the safety of our students—but they're also concerned about finances and the quality of our teachers.”

He concluded in noting his prime emphasis if elected will be “better communications between teachers, administrators, the school board and the community.”

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