The Shelby County Schools board will have one new member this year after Sheleah Harris ousted incumbent Scott McCormick on Thursday.
The other four board members who were up for re-election, Althea Greene, Stephanie Love, Kevin Woods, and Miska Clay Bibbs, retained their seats by thousands of votes.
Harris, a government affairs manager for Verizon and a former high school teacher for Shelby County Schools and Bartlett City Schools, won 44% of the 13,190 votes. She defeated four others including McCormick, who was elected to the school board in 2014 and won re-election in 2016 uncontested. Mauricio Calvo dropped out of the race last month to endorse Harris but was still on the ballot.
Harris, who also runs a nonprofit for students experiencing homelessness, will be the new board member for District 5, which includes her alma mater Cordova High School and unincorporated areas of Shelby County.
“This is the beginning of a new journey and together we will ensure that the future of our district is one of equity and access for all,” she said in a statement Thursday.
School board members determine the district’s goals and hire, manage, and evaluate the district’s superintendent. They are elected to four-year terms with no term limits and are paid $25,000 per year. Thursday’s election encompassed five of the nine seats on the school board that appointed Superintendent Joris Ray last year.
The biggest contributor in the school board race, Education Reform Now Advocacy, spent $48,000 on Harris’ campaign. Harris is also the former director of advocacy for the Tennessee Charter School Center.
Late in campaigning, a mailer featuring McCormick’s drunk driving charge from last year — that was later dismissed — was sent to voters, according to the Daily Memphian. More recently, McCormick was also the lone vote against new laptops for students in June as the district geared up for online learning. He said he supported the idea, but didn’t believe the district’s plan was robust enough to implement and “could do more harm than good.”
Greene of District 2, which includes North Memphis and Binghampton, ran unopposed for the seat she was appointed to last February. About 80 of the 6,655 votes were write-ins.
For District 3, which includes Frayser, Raleigh, and Woodstock, incumbent Love won 65% of the 7,561 votes over challengers Jesse Jeff, who works for a teacher association, and Aaron Youngblood, the regional manager for Enriched Schools, which provides charter schools with substitute teachers.
Woods returns for a third term representing District 4, which includes southeast Memphis and the district’s three Germantown schools, with 60% of the 12,490 votes. He defeated three challengers: Clyde Pinkston, a retired teacher; Tamarques Porter, a cyber security analyst and former teacher assistant; and Kristy Sullivan, the director of family and stakeholder engagement at The New Teacher Project.
In District 7, Bibbs, the board’s chairwoman, won 67% of the 6,378 votes over Trevor Johnson Banks.
You can read the winners’ answers to Chalkbeat’s candidate survey below:
Update, Aug. 7, 2020: This story has been updated with more information about Harris’ campaign, McCormick’s recent voting record, and voting numbers.