Much of my generation yearns for the simplicity of their school years. I myself have nostalgia for dodge ball, 10-word vocabulary lists and class-sanctioned birthday parties with my closest friends. And while those carefree moments still exist, the reality is our schools, including those in Fort Smith, are a lot more complicated.

As our community develops, classrooms are getting more crowded. The demand for modernized technology in the digital learning era is growing. And with every tragic headline printed about schools, the need for enhanced school security is increasing. The teachers and administrators of the Fort Smith School District have worked tirelessly to prevent these challenges from impacting quality of instruction, but it’s time to fully pledge our support behind those who are educating and guiding the next generation.

Students deserve the highest quality education our community can give, and we can all invest in their futures by increasing the area millage rate. Our community is only as strong as our schools.  It’s something our neighbors know to be true, too. Alma, Van Buren and Greenwood have all dramatically increased their millage rates.

I’ve spent most of my adult life in Fort Smith, and I know firsthand how impactful our school district can be. My education — from Euper Lane Elementary to Southside High School — empowered me with the skills I use to lead OK Foods. My role allows me to partner with community trailblazers, and it’s exciting to note local development and discuss plans for our city 10, 25 and 50 years from now. However, these plans necessitate quality schools, a skilled workforce and a place for families to thrive. To preserve long-term economic success, we must band together and give schools the resources needed. I ask that you please consider voting in favor of the millage rate increase.