Your Chalkbeat voter guide to the 2014 Shelby County Schools board election

Shelby County Schools’ next slate of school board members will be tasked with shifting the district’s priorities from dealing with fracturing into seven municipalities toward boosting the district’s dismal academic record.

With 70 of the district’s 180 schools on the 2012 list of worst-performing schools in the state, board members will have to work with Superintendent Dorsey Hopson to retain the district’s best teachers and get students to read at grade level and graduate on time.

That’s all while balancing a dwindling budget, due to the loss of several thousand students who will attend schools in the state-run Achievement School District, charter schools and the six newly-formed municipal districts. The district’s enrollment will shrink from 150,000 students to an estimated 118,000 students this fall.

Knowing that the faces on the board would likely change, the board extended Hopson’s contract for two years last month. He has already set ambitious academic goals and plans to give laptops to some students and zero in on the district’s graduation rate.

This year’s election day is Aug. 7 with early voting starting July 18. The county commission redrew the school board’s district map in February and added two new seats to represent the unincorporated areas of the county.

Current board members Chris Caldwell,  Shante Avant and William Orgel (running unopposed) are among the 14 candidates running for the board this year.

Chalkbeat TN asked all of the candidates to complete a survey to share their stances on Shelby County Schools’ educational challenges, initiatives and focus areas. Below are their unedited answers. To read their full answers, click on their names below. For more in-depth coverage of this year’s election, revisit our site and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Ongoing Chalkbeat coverage:

School board candidates in focus: suburban Shelby County Schools

As race comes to an end candidates wrap up fundraising, spending

School board candidates in focus: teacher effectiveness

School board candidates in focus: charter schools and the ASD

School board candidates in focus: Common Core

School board candidates in districts 5 and 6 not spending

Candidate Garner-Williams gets union support, Avant gets business support

Shelby County Election Commission falls behind as voting starts

Cohort of business leaders fuel two school board candidates’ campaigns

School board candidates pitch more funding, nap time to fix district

In vote over charter school facilities expansion, candidate Avant abstains

School board candidate Roshun Austin outraises, outspends her opponents to get ahead

From T-shirts to campaign headquarters, Shelby County Schools board candidates spend to get ahead

Stand for Children Endorses 8 candidates

Helpful links:    The new Shelby County Schools voting district map   |    Precinct Finder  |  Early Voting SitesRegister to Vote

 District 1  |  District 3  |  District 5  |  District 6   |  District 7  |   District 8  |  District 9

District 1

Chris G. Caldwell, Incumbent 

Chris Caldwell
Chris Caldwell

Age: 61

Employer/Occupation: Vice President, Raymond James & Associates

Family: Cheryl wife (32 years) Jeremy- 17, Ally- 16, Ryan 13

Education: University of Texas at Austin-Business Administration major- Accounting minor

Why he’s running: To take advantage of the huge opportunity our community has to provide high quality public education – because of the positive impact it will have on the quality of life for everyone.


Freda Garner-Williams

Freda Garner Williams
Freda Garner Williams

Employer/Occupation: Contributing Faculty Walden University

Education: B.A. Education – LeMoyne-Owen College; M.S. Curriculum – University of Memphis; Ed.D. Educational Psychology and Research – University of Memphis

Why she’s running:  I am running for school board to offer a level of educational expertise that is needed on the Board.  Presently, there are no educators on the Shelby County School board.  An experienced educator will offer the perspective needed for developing policy and approving educational materials for the district. My skills include those gained as classroom instructor, district-level administrator, university professor and former school board member.  An effective school board member must possess the ability to communicate across all levels of the community.  My skills gained as parent and parent coordinator will contribute to my success with communicating with the parents within our community as well as others who have no children but do have a keen interest in what is happening within the school district. The skills that I gained as former school board member, especially as Chair of the MCS Board, include the ability to work with others for a common goal.  While there are different districts represented across the Board, a high level of student achievement is the common goal.  School board members must have the ability to collaborate with each other to achieve that ultimate goal.  I have experiences that contribute to my ability to work as a team member as well as team leader. As a school board member, I plan to accomplish the development of effective policy, ensure that there is an effective instructional plan guiding the work of the district, and communicating with the community to gain their much needed support.  I plan to accomplish a stronger parent relations department and a more positive presence across Memphis and Shelby County.  While these are goals that I would like to accomplish, I realize that individually, I cannot accomplish these goals.  My ultimate goal is to work as a team with other board members to accomplish the best for the district.

District 3

Teddy King

Teddy King
Teddy King

Age: 45

Employer/Occupation: Achievement School District

Family: wife, Rashida and children – Ayanna, Dallas, Raphael, Theodore

Education: Memphis State University 1987-89

Why he’s running: A child that spends their entire K-12 educational experience in District 3 has a 100% chance of attending a school on the priority list. I’m running because our community deserves better. Currently, I work for the ASD and support the transformation efforts of 6 schools in District 3. My duties include building and maintaining collaborative relationships with families, community and faith – based organizations to help provide resources and supports to ensure our children’s success in career and life. Prior to joining the ASD, I was an interventionist and coach as Westside Middle. I have advocated for education on the local, state and national level. I plan to support families in becoming stronger advocates of education, work to ensure that resources are distributed in a fair and equitable manner and establish a system-wide standard for academic achievement for all students.

Anthony Lockhart

Anthony Lockhart
Anthony Lockhart

Age: 30

Employer/Occupation: Lowe’s Home Improvement, Human Resource Manager

Family: Patricia Lockhart, Aiden 6, Elliott 2, Elijah 2, Eve (9 months) 

Education: University of Memphis, 2 years.

Previous education experience: PTA president of Lucy Elementary.

Endorsements: Bill Atkins, Pastor of Greater Imanti, Detris Crane, Principal of Lucy Elementary

Why he’s running: I decided to run to make a difference for my four kids. Within the next couple of years all of my children will be in Shelby County schools. So I want to make sure that I do my part as a leader in the community, to enhance the school system and give them the best education possible. That’s the reason I got involved in the PTA. I have good interpersonal skills.  I’m comfortable talking to the parents and listening to their concerns. We did a very good job at Lucy Elementary getting parent involvement. It increased year after year.  I enjoy doing community events, whether I’m participating as a volunteer or organizing them. I got involved after listening to my, who wife is an education professional.  District 3 is the largest district.I’m the only candidate that is familiar with all of the areas having worked in Millington, Lucy, and Memphis. My two opponents both live in the Frayser community. I think it’s important to have a representative that supports the entire community and not just one particular area, so that’s what I think I bring more to the table. I live and work more in the surrounding communities for district 3.

Stephanie Love

Stephanie Love
Stephanie Love
Age: 34
Employer/Occupation: Cosmetologist
Family: T’Andre Love, Ke’Ante Love, Romescia Love and Da’Zyria Love
Education: Millington Central High School (GED), The University of Memphis and Tennessee Academy of Cosmetology (Cosmetology license)
Why she’s running: I am running because I believe I can relate to the people of District 3 and effectively represent their views regarding education on the Shelby County School Board. Some of the skills I will bring to the school board include being an effective listener to the educational needs of school board constituents, the ability to work with colleagues that may have differences of opinion on the issues and being able to effectively communicate challenges and solutions regarding public education.

District 5

Scott McCormick-  Did not respond.

David Winston – Did not respond.

District 6

Shante Avant- Did not respond.

Jimmy Warren -Did not respond.

District 7

Miska Clay Bibbs – Did not respond.

District 8

William Orgel – Did not respond.

District 9

Roshun Austin

Roshun Austin
Roshun Austin

Age: 42

Employer/Occupation: St. Andrew AME Church, Chief Operating Officer and The Works, Inc., Executive Director

Family: Divorced; daughter Lailah, 12

Education:  B.A., Sociology-Anthropology, Middlebury College, 1993 M.A., Urban Anthropology, University of Memphis, 1997

Why she’s running: I am running for the role for several reasons. 1) I have a vested, personal interest in the success of this system. I have a 12 year old who spent the first 6 years of formal education in this system with plans to continue her education for the next 5 years. 2) I hold firmly to the belief that all children deserve access to a quality public education regardless of their socioeconomic status, familial affiliations, gender, ethnic background, or any and all barriers or inhibiting factors. 3) I am uniquely equipped as a long-term community and grassroots leader to serve as a conduit, communicator, and consensus builder.I am qualified as a school member for the following reasons: my background in community service and education illustrate my commitment to public education and student achievement. I understand how to strategically plan and set measurable goals. My professional and volunteer experiences help me to understand the responsibility of fiscal soundness and regular monitoring to ensure continued fiscal health of the district that promotes student achievement. Philosophically, I feel that I must advocate for the best public education of all children for the success of Shelby County and the larger society. With a history in community development and nonprofit board service, I recognize that success requires teamwork and consensus building.

Mike Kernell

Age: 62

Mike Kernell
Mike Kernell

Employer/Occupation: state employee, retired

Family:  wife, Nancy White and children- David Kernell, Isabell Kernell

Education:  Sherwood Elementary, Sherwood Junior High, Messick High School, Senior at University of Memphis, graduation planned in August 2014. (Finishing last course, a senior project, after receiving 4.5 years of credit re-evaluated and returned under the Finish Line Program).

Why he’s running: I want to use my experience to help the new school system, and in turn, help the kids in the community and create a better next generation. As a state legislator, I was the Chair of the TN House Government Operations Committee. I have lots of experience working with many public and private organizations of all sizes, developing budgets and priorities. As Committee Chair, my job was to conduct regular reviews of State rules and regulations, and along with the Office of the Comptroller, conduct Performance Audits of State agencies. School Board District 9 is my home turf. I attended schools in the District and, except for my time in Nashville, have lived here all of my life.

Damon Curry Morris

Damon Curry Morris
Damon Curry Morris

Age: 35

Employer/Occupation: Servicemaster/Customer Service Agent

Family: Children-Christain, Marilyn, James

Education: BA-Political Science (LeMoyne-Owen College); Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP-Nonprofit Leadership Alliance)

Why he’s running: The purpose of my campaign is to be a voice for the community and children I serve that ordinarily would not have that voice. The skills I have are my tremendous leadership, educational record, and unmatched record with children.  Also, I plan to make sure that I am a voice for people who don’t have that voice for the parents, teachers, and students. My main focus is educational equality for ALL children.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”