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:
Chris G. Caldwell, Incumbent
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scott McCormick- Did not respond.
Shante Avant- Did not respond.
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.
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.
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.