NOTE: This is the second part of a story exploring how strong extracurricular programs impact the success of all aspects of the Marion School District.

In the first part of this story (read it here), we explored the surge of success in Patriot extra-curricular programs, including a run of 16 conference titles, 11 state championship appearances, and 6 state crowns since 2013. With this installment, we will look at HOW that success was achieved, and WHY it is important.

Whether it's an award-winning band program, one of 18 top-level sports teams, first-class theater productions, or clubs like Robotics and Quiz Bowl earning regional and national recognition, it’s not hard to see ways students in the Marion School District are achieving at the highest levels.

But that level of achievement isn’t something that happens at every school in the state. It requires commitment; it requires investment; and it requires an understanding of why it’s important for schools to do it.

“Success like this only happens where you have great community support, and where you have a strong, visionary school board,” said Dr. Glen Fenter, Marion superintendent. “We are blessed to have both of those things here at Marion.”

Marion’s school board includes Jeffrey Richardson (board president), Daryel Jackson (vice president), Gary Wehrum (secretary), Jerri Crase, Eddie Minton, Rob Rash, and Bartt Vaughn.

“It’s truly an honor to work with this exceptional team,” Fenter said. “It’s been said that our board is ‘addicted to excellence,’ and it’s true. With their leadership, we have expanded our extracurricular programs while continuing to improve our academic programs. Not only does this ensure our students have the chance to experience success while in school, but also on whatever path they choose after they graduate.”


Marion's success of late has coincided with dramatic improvements in the school's facilities. Much of that is the result of the millage project which was approved by Marion voters in 2019.

Through the millage project, the district has invested more than $20 million over the past several years to improve its instructional infrastructure and help ensure that Marion students have access to a safe and stimulating educational environment. Among the improvements:

  • New flooring has been installed in classrooms and hallways across the district.

  • Hundreds of new security cameras are in place in classrooms, hallways, offices, buses, and other common areas.

  • More than 100 new rooftop HVAC units and more than 400,000 square feet of roof coatings have been installed in district buildings.

  • Outdoor learning spaces have been created at several campuses.

  • Restrooms have been modernized.

  • The Marion Performing Arts Center now has a state-of-the-art theatrical sound system.

  • New themed playgrounds are in use at all three magnet schools.

  • Every school in the district has received a new modern entryway, including access controls to protect student safety.

“We are very mindful that the prosperity of our community will forever be intertwined with the strength of our local schools,” Fenter said. “That’s why we went to voters five years ago with our millage plan. And we are blessed to have a community that stood with us, had confidence in us, and was willing to invest in our schools and our community.”

Thanks to the millage project, Marion now also boasts one of the best arrays of athletic venues in the state. As a result, Marion has hosted several state tournaments and other events that bring thousands of visitors into the community, helping to boost the local economy.

“The facilities are a universal source of pride in Marion,” said 2010 Marion graduate Landon West, who now works for a school district in Northwest Arkansas. “From top to bottom, no school east of Little Rock has anything that compares to what Marion has. I live in Northwest Arkansas now, and those schools are just now starting to catch up on the level of facility that Marion has had for a while now.”

“Marion's facilities rival anyone in the state,” added Tyler Bennett, a 2014 Marion graduate, who now works as Coordinator for Media Relations at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. “I've been to a lot of the schools now, across a handful of states, and it's hard to think of many schools that have more than one or two facilities better than Marion, and none are better top to bottom. Nobody else in Arkansas can match what Marion has done. Those facilities are as good as any at even a small college.”


In addition to a swelling enrollment, exceptionally hard-working student-athletes, and top-tier facilities, Marion has worked to put the right people in place to not only lead, but transform, the district’s programs.

“As important as it is to invest in facilities, it’s even more important to invest in the right people,” Fenter said. “So when we have openings, we are not just looking for someone who qualifies for the job. We are looking for rock stars. We want people who aren’t just capable – we want them to have a vision for their program, and then have the ability to make that vision a reality. The aim is to produce the best possible experience for our students while they are participating in our activities.”

The impact of this approach can be seen across the district.

“We have a great team here at Marion,” Fenter said. “Not only are we proud of the things we have already achieved; we are excited about the things that are yet to come.”


So why do it? Why is it important for schools to be something more than just a place where students go to attend classes and take tests? Why are strong extracurricular programs so vital?

It’s all about student outcomes.

“What we know -- what the research says -- is that the more kids are involved with various activities in school, the better they will achieve academically,” said Greg Hodges, the district’s director of K-12 curriculum, instruction, professional development, and K-6 elementary education. “And so, as a district, we’ve tried to create different avenues for all kids to get involved in activities. That includes sports, that includes music and fine arts. That includes all the other clubs and activities. I think our track record speaks for itself.”

For Fenter, it’s about helping students fulfill their potential.

“We want our students to understand that they are capable of achieving their own dreams,” he said. “So our job here is to be great at everything, and to give our students a chance to be a part of something that will support their growth and success in and out of the classroom, both in school and in the world beyond.”

“If you want to have a great school, you’ve got to first have great talent in the classroom,” Fenter continued. “And you have to dedicate yourself to making continuous improvements to your academic program, which is what we are doing -- whether it has been implementing innovative new curriculums, utilizing the Professional Learning Community approach for our instructional leaders, or finding new ways to bring technology into the classroom.”

“But then you’ve got to have other things along with a strong academic program that helps students understand that there’s a different level of expectation, and that’s going to produce a different level of outcomes.”

The Marion School District is an innovative and growing district committed to helping every student find their unique path to success in school and in life. With more than 150 years of experience serving families in Crittenden County, the district offers a high school, a junior high, a seventh grade school, and three award-winning magnet schools. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit or call 870-739-5100.

Reminder: School Choice deadline is May 1!