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Shante Avant resigns from the Memphis school board. Are other offices ahead?

Shante Avant, board chairwoman, holds a microphone and speaks at Central High School last year.

Shante Avant, a longtime Whitehaven resident who has served on the Memphis-Shelby County School board since 2014, said that family matters prompted her decision to resign her school board seat and relocate from her Whitehaven-area district.

Caroline Bauman / Chalkbeat

Shante Avant is resigning from her seat on the Memphis-Shelby County Schools board, effective immediately, but is keeping the door open for other elected positions.

Avant, a longtime Whitehaven resident who has served on the board since 2014, said that family matters prompted her decision and relocation from her Whitehaven-area district. Avant’s seat in District 6 serves neighborhoods in South Memphis, Riverside, Westwood, and Whitehaven.

“I have decided to go ahead and set up my residency in Cordova, and I’m excited about it for a couple of reasons. One, we’re literally four minutes from my sister who helps with my mom,” said Avant, who is a caregiver for her 74-year-old mother. 

“I feel blessed to have my mother, who is of sound mind and continues to be a support and a counsel to me and helps me with my 16-year-old daughter,” she added.

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Avant’s resignation comes during primary season in Shelby County, with board member Althea Greene recently announcing her candidacy for a seat on the Shelby County Commission. The District 7 seat, which includes neighborhoods in North Memphis, Overton Park, Frayser, and Raleigh, is currently held by Commissioner and activist Tami Sawyer who is leaving in August. 

As of Feb. 8, several hopefuls have pulled petitions for the District 7 primary race, including Democrats Kathy Temple, Cartavius Black, Henri Brooks, and Orrden Williams, and independent Shirelle Brown. 

When asked if other runs for office are in her future, Avant replied, “Whatever God leads me to do to continue to serve people, I will do.”

In a statement, Avant said some of the highlights of her school board tenure include: ordering a disparity study to further the work of the Minority Women’s Business Enterprise program, expanding the College Career Technology Education (CCTE) programs, and helping to create the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone to better align the curriculum of area feeder schools. 

In addition to her role on the school board, Avant also serves as the deputy director of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, a prominent local institution that provides grants and resources to women-centered community organizations. 

Avant has been a dedicated community servant, said school board chair Michelle McKissack, who called Avant’s departure bittersweet.

“She’s just so smart and just always brings such a measured and thoughtful discussion to whatever we’re addressing,” said McKissack. “So I’m excited for the possibilities for her future, but I’m definitely going to miss her on the school board.” 

Officials are now tasked with appointing someone to the vacant seat as McKissack turns her attention to helping the school board navigate change and acclimate new members.

“Managing a transition where there’s the potential for so much change in the coming months is simply about just staying focused on what we’re tasked to do, which is to help children learn,” she said. “If you’re about positively impacting children, then that’s the core of what someone needs to run for office or seek an appointment, and it’s as simple as that.” 

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