From providing more parental resources to holding budget meetings with the county commission, nine of the 14 Shelby County Schools board candidates shared how they would prioritize the district’s needs during a forum Monday night at First Baptist Church in the Binghampton neighborhood.
More than 60 people attended the event, which was hosted by Black Alliance for Educational Options and its partners Students First and Tennessee Federation for Children. Chalkbeat TN Bureau Chief Daarel Burnette II moderated the forum.
Chalkbeat TN staff provided attendees with a voter’s guide and asked candidates to share what their priorities would be, if elected, and how they would implement it.
Early voting begins on July 18 and election day is Aug. 7.
The following is a round-up of tweets from the event.
Kernell said he would advocate for careful budgeting and meetings with the county commission.
"We should have budget meetings with the county commission," Kernell said. One crowd member agreed out loud with an audible 'That's right!'— Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 14, 2014
Kernell said students coming from tumultuous backgrounds need the time to calm down in school through meditation, music, omega-3 fatty acids— Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 15, 2014
Austin's top priority is to eliminate the achievement gap by eliminating the barriers - hunger, economic hardships and other ills.— Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 14, 2014
Morris' top priority - stop school closures. We need to advocate to keep schools open. Morris spoke against school closures in the spring.— Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 14, 2014
Freda Garner-Williams said she was born to be a teacher. Wants to return to the board because there's no educator on the board.— Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 14, 2014
Shante Avant said if re-elected, her priority will be addressing academic achievement and creating an employable workforce for the community. Her challenger Jimmy Warren was not present.
Her top priority is academic achievement. Avant shouts out I-Zone's Ford Road Elementary in her district. The school had the highest gains.— Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 14, 2014
In the three-candidate District 3 race, Love was the only candidate to participate in the forum. Teddy King and Anthony Lockhart did not attend. Love told voters that if elected, her priority would be to improve parental involvement and implement comprehensive services for parents and students within the schools.
Chris Caldwell wants to focus on closing the achievement gap and increasing student achievement while also giving principals more autonomy to make school-based decisions.
— BluffCityEd (@BluffCityEd) July 14, 2014
David Winston says he is running because he wants to be the voice of parents and to see programs that benefit students. His challenger Scott McCormick did not attend the forum.
Winston said his priority would be to advocate that all tax dollars go to the students of Shelby County.— Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 14, 2014
David WinstonPHOTO CREDIT: Oliver Morrison
Unopposed District 7 candidate Miska Clay Bibbs said her top priority is closing the achievement gap, more opportunities for pre-kindergarten and support for teachers.
Kim Wilson Bond
Kim Wilson Bond, a District 8 voter who was wearing a Freda Garner-Williams shirt, asked candidates how they plan to ensure that minority-owned businesses have equal access to school-based contracts. “The issue is important. More minority businesses need to be involved (in the bidding process). I’m looking forward to having better diversity on the board and we need more educators on the board.”
Sydney Harris, 12, asked the candidates why, when people think of school boards, they think of politics not parents. She says her mom, Carra Powell, has been involved in her own education but is sending her and her two siblings to private schools next year.
Jada Cowen, 18, asked how education has changed since Williams graduated from local schools. “It was a better environment then and now children don’t have the resources or help that they need to have the best education possible,” is what Cowen remembered from Williams’ response. “I wish they would focus more on increasing the budget for public school education,” Cowen said.
Cowen graduated from Trezevant High School this year and will attend Tennessee State University in the fall.
Kamilah Turner asked the candidates what they are going to do to improve graduation rates. “As a criminal defense lawyer it’s mind boggling the number of people in the criminal system who have not graduated from high school,” Turner said.
The candidates gave a variety of solutions, such as focusing on pre-K or returning to old school methods of schooling, including nap time and exercise.
“I would have liked to have heard a plan that someone had,” Turner said, “That someone thought about ahead of time, something a little more cohesive.”
Teddy King, Anthony Lockhart, Scott McCormick, Jimmy Warren, Billy Orgel
Five candidates did not attend tonight’s forum: Teddy King, Anthony Lockhart, Scott McCormick, Jimmy Warren and incumbent Billy Orgel. — Tajuana Cheshier (@TajuanaCheshier) July 14, 2014
Contact Oliver Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org and (206) 643-9731. Follow us on Twitter: @ORMorrison, @chalkbeattn. Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chalkbeattn. Sign up for our newsletter for regular updates on Tennessee education news: http://tn.chalkbeat.org/newsletter/