Results are in

Caldwell and Kernell out on Memphis school board, other incumbents return

PHOTO: Courtesy of Michelle Robinson McKissack
Michelle Robinson McKissack beat incumbent Chris Caldwell by 738 votes.

Two incumbents are out and two are staying on the Shelby County School board.

Chris Caldwell and Mike Kernell lost to newcomers Michelle Robinson McKissack and Joyce Dorse-Coleman while Billy Orgel and Shante Avant kept their seats.

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Board chairman Chris Caldwell and Superintendent Dorsey Hopson listen to a budget presentation in 2015.

It was 1,146 votes that separated McKissack, the editor at Memphis Parent Magazine and a board member for Crosstown High School, and Caldwell, a financial consultant seeking his third term. Both are White Station High School graduates. The race for District 1, which includes downtown Memphis, attracted more than $50,000 in campaign support for McKissack by TennesseeCAN, a Nashville-based education advocacy organization. McKissack also drew in plenty of other donors making her the second-highest spender in the four races.

Joyce Dorse-Coleman

Dorse-Coleman, a longtime parent volunteer in schools, beat Kernell, a former state legislator who has been on the board since 2014, by 248 votes, according to unofficial numbers. Her support amounted to 31 percent of the 10,317 votes cast in District 9. She already had some campaigning under her belt when she served on a committee that successfully kept Dunbar Elementary School from closing.

A total of 15 people ran for the four seats. McKissack’s arrival represents another board member who could push the district to be more friendly to charter schools. Shelby County Schools has been in an open war with charter schools for student enrollment. Dorse-Coleman’s volunteer and organizing background could represent a much-needed tie for a district that struggles to connect with parents. This year’s election results still leaves the board without an educator, a frequent gripe among teachers.

PHOTO: Rebecca Griesbach/Chalkbeat
Board members Miska Clay Bibbs, left, and Mike Kernell listen to arguments during an appeal hearing for former Trezevant High School coach Teli White.

Orgel retained his District 8 seat in East Memphis by 1,744 votes over Jerry Cunningham, a retired teacher. Avant came away with 63 percent of the votes cast, beating out three challengers in District 6, which includes Whitehaven.

You can read the winners’ answers to Chalkbeat’s survey below.

Update Aug. 3, 2018: This story has been updated with vote tallies. 

names are in

Ten apply for vacant seat on the Memphis school board, but six live outside of seat’s district

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Former Shelby County Board of Education Chairwoman Teresa Jones confers with then Superintendent Dorsey Hopson during a 2015 school board meeting. Jones' seat is now up for an interim appointment.

Ten people have put their name in to become the next board member of Tennessee’s largest school district.

The appointee will fill the seat Teresa Jones vacated following her recent appointment as a municipal court judge, and would serve until the term expires in August 2020, not October as previously reported.

The interim member will join the school board at a crucial time, amid the search for a new superintendent to replace Dorsey Hopson, who left the district in December. Currently, Joris Ray is serving as interim superintendent.

Jones’ district 2 serves neighborhoods including North Memphis, Binghampton, and Berclair. Chalkbeat found that six applicants live outside of the district. Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley said this would likely prevent them from an appointment, but the commission is seeking clarity from the state and election commission.

Whaley also said the interim appointment was extended to August 2020 because Tennessee law doesn’t specify that special elections are necessary for the school board, so the interim will finish out Jones’ term.

The county commission is scheduled to name a successor on Monday Feb. 25, a day before the school board’s meeting that month. The commission is slated to interview candidates Wednesday at 10 a.m., but Whaley said more names could be added by commissioners prior to the vote on Monday We’ve linked to their full applications below.

Applicants are:

Althea Greene

  • She is a retired teacher from Memphis City Schools and childcare supervisor with Shelby County Schools. She is currently Pastor of Real Life Ministries.

Arvelia Chambers

  • She is a senior certified pharmacy technician with Walgreens. She said she’s a “passionate aunt” of three children in Shelby County Schools.
  • Her listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Aubrey Howard

  • He works as the executive director of governmental and legislative affairs in the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. He formerly worked for the City of Memphis, and said in his application that he previously ran for school board and lost.

Charles McKinney

  • He is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and associate professor of history at Rhodes College. He is on the board of Crosstown High Charter School, and is the father of two Shelby County Schools students.

David Brown

  • He is the executive director of digital ministry at Brown Missionary Baptist Church and graduated from  Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly east of District 2.

Erskine Gillespie

  • Gillespie previously ran for City Council district 7 but lost. He is an account manager at the Lifeblood Mid-South Regional Blood Bank. He said in his application that he was one of the first students to enter the optional schools program in the Memphis district.

Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

  • He is a pastor at The New Olivet Worship Center and previously served as a school board member for the former Memphis City Schools; he was first elected in 2006. He has vocally opposed the process behind the 2013 merger of the city school system with legacy Shelby County Schools.
  • Whalum ran against school board member Kevin Woods in 2012 and lost.
  • His listed address is near the University of Memphis, not in District 2.

Makeda Porter-Carr

  • She is a research administrator at St. Jude Research Hospital.
  • Her listed address is in southeast Memphis, not in District 2.

Michael Hoffmeyer Sr.

  • He is the director of the University of Memphis’ Crews Center for Entrepreneurship in which he works with college and high school students. He graduated from Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Tyree Daniels

  • He helped found Memphis College Prep charter school. He lost to Jones in a school board race in 2012. Daniels is now a part of Duncan-Williams Inc. — the firm handling public financing for the project Union Row.
  • His listed address is in east Memphis, not in District 2.

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.