Fort Smith Public School District Superintendent Benny L. Gooden, Ed.D. announced his retirement during the Superintendent’s Report of the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting today. Gooden, who has served as the district’s chief executive officer since August 1986, completes 30 years with FSPS and 50 years as an educational leader.
In a letter to the Board of Education, Gooden said, “After reflecting on your stated desire for a new direction and with a realization that there are other pursuits for me which the obligations of the job have prevented, I have decided that it is time to transition from the 24/7 life of a school administrator to a less-confining lifestyle. I am not “quitting work,” but there are other things I can do which will be rewarding and productive.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your superintendent of schools for the past three decades. I believe in the future of public education in Fort Smith—just as I believe in the future of this great community and its people. I will retire effective June 30, 2016.”
Gooden, who has worked within the confines of a 36.5 millage rate since 1987, can be credited with allocating resources that demonstrate an abiding respect for each member of the educational community. Maintaining a very low debt ratio, he has facilitated an ongoing building maintenance and improvement plan since his employment with the District. He has guided the instructional vision of the District as he has supported the development of a fiber infrastructure to support emerging technologies as instructional tools.
Gooden, a music educator by initial training, is responsible for providing elementary and secondary learning environments where student musicians of all levels of talent and skill may flourish, and he has balanced the needs of the very brightest students with that of students who are challenged by learning disabilities or the lack of access facing student who live in poverty. With the safety and security of the district’s students and employees in mind, he leads the district’ efforts to design and practice safe school procedures with a dynamic crisis response plan. Gooden has also shepherded an award-winning, model alternative learning environment for young people who are not successful in a traditional school environment.
He said, “Students who come from homes of advantage will succeed regardless of the course the system as a whole follows. However, for those who lack the resources which relative affluence brings, a strong and balanced array of public school opportunities delivered in an uncompromising manner is critical to their successful futures. Real school choice for them lies in the comprehensive PreK-12 program that is Fort Smith Public Schools. Private options, charter schools with a narrow focus, virtual programs and other niche offerings will receive attention and may excite some who seek something “different,” but they will not replace the comprehensive focus of the wide range of Fort Smith Public School options.”