Shelby County Schools

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

PHOTO: Oliver Morrison

From providing more parental resources to holding budget meetings with the county commission, nine of the 14 Shelby County Schools board candidates shared how they would prioritize the district’s needs during a forum Monday night at First Baptist Church in the Binghampton neighborhood.

More than 60 people attended the event, which was hosted by Black Alliance for Educational Options and its partners Students First and Tennessee Federation for Children. Chalkbeat TN Bureau Chief Daarel Burnette II moderated the forum.

Chalkbeat TN staff provided attendees with a voter’s guide and asked candidates to share what their priorities would be, if elected, and how they would implement it.

Early voting begins on July 18 and election day is Aug. 7.

The following is a round-up of tweets from the event.

Mike Kernell

Kernell said he would advocate for careful budgeting and meetings with the county commission.

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PHOTO: Oliver Morrison

Roshun Austin

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Damon Morris 

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Freda Garner-Williams

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Shante Avant

Shante Avant said if re-elected, her priority will be addressing academic achievement and creating an employable workforce for the community.  Her challenger Jimmy Warren was not present.

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Stephanie Love

In the three-candidate District 3 race, Love was the only candidate to participate in the forum. Teddy King and Anthony Lockhart did not attend. Love told voters that if elected, her priority would be to improve parental involvement and implement comprehensive services for parents and students within the schools. 

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Chris Caldwell

Chris Caldwell wants to focus on closing the achievement gap and increasing student achievement while also giving principals more autonomy to make school-based decisions.

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David Winston

David Winston says he is running because he wants to be the voice of parents and to see programs that benefit students.  His challenger Scott McCormick did not attend the forum.

Miska Bibbs 

Unopposed District 7 candidate Miska Clay Bibbs said her top priority is closing the achievement gap, more opportunities for pre-kindergarten and support for teachers.

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Kim Wilson Bond

Kim Wilson Bond, a District 8 voter who was wearing a Freda Garner-Williams shirt, asked candidates how they plan to ensure that minority-owned businesses have equal access to school-based contracts.  “The issue is important. More minority businesses need to be involved (in the bidding process).  I’m looking forward to having better diversity on the board and we need more educators on the board.”

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Sydney Harris

Sydney Harris, 12, asked the candidates why, when people think of school boards, they think of politics not parents. She says her mom, Carra Powell, has been involved in her own education but is sending her and her two siblings to private schools next year.

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Jada Cowen

Jada Cowen, 18, asked how education has changed since Williams graduated from local schools. “It was a better environment then and now children don’t have the resources or help that they need to have the best education possible,” is what Cowen remembered from Williams’ response. “I wish they would focus more on increasing the budget for public school education,” Cowen said.

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Cowen graduated from Trezevant High School this year and will attend Tennessee State University in the fall.

Kamilah Turner

Kamilah Turner asked the candidates what they are going to do to improve graduation rates. “As a criminal defense lawyer it’s mind boggling the number of people in the criminal system who have not graduated from high school,” Turner said.

The candidates gave a variety of solutions, such as focusing on pre-K or returning to old school methods of schooling, including nap time and exercise.

“I would have liked to have heard a plan that someone had,” Turner said, “That someone thought about ahead of time, something a little more cohesive.”

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 Teddy King, Anthony Lockhart, Scott McCormick, Jimmy Warren, Billy Orgel

Contact Oliver Morrison at and (206) 643-9731. Follow us on Twitter: @ORMorrison, @chalkbeattn. Like us on Facebook: Sign up for our newsletter for regular updates on Tennessee education news:

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

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.”