One Incumbent Changes His Mind and Joins 14 Others Running for Five Memphis School Board Seats

Photo by Caroline Bauman/Chalkbeat

By Laura Faith Kebede

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Fifteen people are running for five seats on the Shelby County Schools board in August, including an incumbent who initially was not going to seek re-election.

Kevin Woods, who in February said he would step down, announced Tuesday he would run again as schools are closed indefinitely because of coronavirus. In response, two candidates planned to withdraw, including Joann Massey, who oversees the city’s contracts with businesses owned by women and people of color.

“These are exceptional times and the health and well-being of our education system are at stake,” Woods said in a Facebook post. “I plan to stay committed to District 4 families and employees, as well as my fellow board members while we continue to work through these difficult challenges.”

Open seats in Memphis school board elections are staggered. Five seats are open in this year’s election in districts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, including most neighborhoods north of Poplar Avenue, plus South Memphis and Hickory Hill.

With the majority of seats open on the nine-member board, the election could affect support for Superintendent Joris Ray, whom the board hired last April. He currently enjoys the support of most board members.

This year, all but one of the five seats are being contested. Four years ago, only one of the five seats was contested. The incumbent, Stephanie Love, won it handedly.

School board members serve four-year terms and are paid $25,000 per year. Early voting for the Aug. 6 election will run from July 17 to Aug. 1.

A display at the “State of the District” address, a nod to the city’s area code.

There is one candidate for District 2, which includes North Memphis and Binghampton:

Althea Greene, 62, is the school board’s only former teacher and was appointed in February 2019 after her predecessor Teresa Jones was appointed as a municipal judge. Soon after her appointment, Greene was one of the first board members to publicly endorse abandoning a national superintendent search and hire Ray. She is the pastor of Real Life Ministries and the owner of Third Generation Catering. She graduated from Treadwell High School and retired from Shelby County Schools in July 2018 after 38 years of teaching at six Memphis schools.

There are three candidates running for District 3, which includes Frayser, Raleigh, and Woodstock:

Jesse Jeff, 60, is a Uniserv Director for Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, a teachers group that in part represents employees in labor disputes, and currently represents the association in district negotiations with teachers. Jeff retired from Shelby County Schools in 2016 after teaching in Memphis elementary schools for 22 years. He is a city native, former police officer, and veteran of the United States Army and Marine Corps. He has unsuccessfully run for sheriff, city council and state representative. Both of his children graduated from Memphis public schools.

Stephanie Love, 39, was elected to the school board in 2014 and won re-election in 2016. She is the co-chair of the board’s budget committee and has advocated for more parent and community engagement from the district, charter schools, and the state-run Achievement School District, which has concentrated in the Frayser neighborhood. She has four children, all of whom have attended or are attending SCS schools.

Aaron Youngblood, 28, is the regional manager for Enriched Schools, which provides charter schools with substitute teachers. He is a former teacher at Frayser Elementary, a part of the state-run Achievement School District and the co-chair of the Memphis Youth Guidance Commission, which makes recommendations to the city mayor on youth issues. Youngblood was on the board for Southwest Early College High, a charter school forced to close this year.

Four people are running for District 4, which includes the far southeast of Memphis and the district’s three Germantown schools:

Clyde W. Pinkston, no further information was available

Tamarques Porter, 35, is a cyber security analyst and policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Treasury and is a former teacher assistant and field support analyst for Shelby County Schools. Previously, he administered literacy programs at day care centers. Porter is a graduate of Melrose High School and serves on the board for Blacks and Latinos in Technology, the Educational Technology Advisory Committee for State Rep. Barbara Cooper and the Shelby County Commission’s IT steering committee. He is married with two sons, one of whom attends a private school.

Kristy Sullivan, 41, is the director of family and stakeholder engagement at The New Teacher Project, where she previously helped develop a teacher recruitment and retainment strategy for Shelby County Schools. She is a White Station High School graduate and has two daughters, one who attends Idlewild Elementary School. She also works with Think Before You Act, a nonprofit antibullying and anger management awareness campaign that works with schools and was founded by her father.

Kevin Woods, 43, is the Memphis market president for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and has served on the school board for nearly nine years after being appointed in 2011 as plans for merging city and county school systems got underway. Woods was board chair during the one year the districts were actually merged in 2013. The next year six suburban districts formed and split from the district. He has two daughters who attend SCS schools and serves on the board of 100 Black Men, Leadership Tennessee, United Way, and the Salvation Army, among others.

Shelby County Schools enrolls about 113,000 students in Memphis.

Five people are running for the District 5 seat, which includes Cordova and unincorporated rural parts of the school system:

Paul Evelyn Allen, 57, retired from Shelby County Schools as a music teacher in 2017 after 30 years in the classroom. She is a graduate of Northside High School.

Mauricio Calvo, 44, is the 11-year executive director of Latino Memphis, and ran unsuccessfully for Memphis City Council last year. In that race, he got an endorsement from Stand for Children, an education advocacy organization. Originally from Mexico City, Calvo became a U.S. citizen in 2018 and serves on the boards of Downtown Memphis Commission, Hope Credit Union, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, Memphis Brand Initiative, and Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, among others. He is married and has three children who attend schools in the district. The Shelby County Election Commission was still processing Calvo’s petition to verify signatures as of noon Monday.

April Ghueder, 25, is a sixth grade English teacher at Believe Memphis Academy, a charter school authorized by Shelby County Schools. Before that, she taught in the KIPP charter network and Germanshire Elementary. She is an alumnae of Teach for America Memphis, though she previously obtained her education degree through Christian Brothers University. Ghueder is a White Station High graduate and on the board of The Collective, which provides professional training for Teach for America alumni of color.

Sheleah Harris, 32, is a government affairs manager for Verizon and a former high school teacher for Shelby County Schools and Bartlett City Schools. Harris is a Cordova High School graduate and was previously the director of policy and advocacy for Tennessee Charter School Center. She is on the board of National Association for Homeless Children and Youth, Boys and Girls Club of Memphis, and Sister Supply. She is also the founder of nonprofit Living Grace, which provides supplies and support for homeless students.

Scott McCormick, 60, was elected to the school board in 2014 and won re-election in 2016 uncontested. McCormick is the board’s vice chairman and leads the superintendent evaluation committee. He also serves on the Tennessee School Boards Association’s OPEB Trust retiree benefits board. He is a Memphis native and White Station High School graduate. He previously served on the Memphis City Council from 2004 to 2008, served as the council’s chairman, and unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for a statehouse seat last year.

Two people are running in District 7, which includes South Memphis, Alcy Ball and Parkway Village:

Trevor Johnson Banks, The Shelby County Election Commission was still processing Bank’s petition to verify signatures as of noon Monday. No further information was available.

Miska Clay Bibbs, 45, is the chairwoman for the Shelby County Schools board. She was elected in 2014, won re-election in 2016 uncontested and became the chief of staff at Teach For America in Memphis in August. Bibbs previously was the executive director for the Memphis office of Teach Plus, which ended its teacher fellowship program in 2016. Before that, Bibbs led community engagement for charter network Green Dot Public Schools and coordinated volunteer training and community events and partnerships with the former Memphis City Schools for nearly 10 years. During her time on the school board, Bibbs has led the district’s effort to increase accountability and transparency with the school system’s charter schools. Two of the district’s new elementary buildings are in her district, Alcy and Parkway Village. Her son is a Shelby County Schools high school senior.

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