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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.