By Malorie Paine
JACKSON, TN — Two Jackson Madison County School board members have come under full attack with Governor Bill Lee signing into law a bill allowing voters to recall school board members.
Lee signed the bill last month, but there is already a petition circulating to recall Doris Black, District 4, and Board Chairman Keith Alexander, District 2. The recall process is one with several steps.
Petition organizers would first need to gain signatures for 66% of the votes each candidate received during the election. Once signatures are gathered, those will be submitted to the Election Commission for confirmation. Signatures can only be gained from voters within Black and Alexander’s districts, and the Election Commission would need to verify the signatures. Then, a recall vote would be put into effect if necessary.
Alexander said recalls are typically utilized in situations where unethical behavior has taken place, but that neither he nor Black have been unethical in their time on the board.
“My main goal has been to do what’s best for the entire district,” he said. “I ran because five schools were closed through the vision 2020 plan, which overcrowded our schools. I didn’t feel like that was the best way to resolve the problems.”
Alexander said Black has been the nicest person on the school board, and he doesn’t see a reason to recall her or himself.
“It’s only trying to overturn an election,” he said. “This is about undoing elections. Doris is dually elected; I’m dually elected.”
According to data from the Madison County Election Commission, to recall Black would require around 1,150 signatures, while a recall for Alexander would require nearly 560 signatures.
Black and Alexander have been vocal on the board over what changes they believe are best for the school system, and some in Jackson have disagreed with them. One source of struggle has been over a new Pope Elementary School that would serve K-8 students. Alexander said some voters haven’t gotten the whole story, and instead are believing whatever they’ve heard.
“I ran on the platform of no new schools,” Alexander said. “I didn’t try to stop a new Pope Elementary though, I tried to look at additional properties. I wanted to look at property that would be more conducive to growth.”
Alexander is hoping to continue the work he’s started on the board, and ultimately he would like to see the recall petitions against himself and Black dropped.
“I have tried to do things to help our district as a whole,” Alexander said. “If we don’t help our district as a whole, we can’t fix our district. I have tried to do my best for the whole district. I have two schools in my district. I started with one, and I fought to get Nova Early Learning Center opened back up to get the schools down to where they weren’t over crowded.”
Alexander said he’s unsure if the petition organizers will be able to gain the required signatures or not, he’s heard mixed reactions from those across district. However, he says he hopes he’s able to finish serving out his term.
Jackson Madison County NAACP Branch President Harrell Carter says the branch is seeking a decision from the state’s Attorney General on the Constitutionality of the law that sparked the petitions. Carter said the recall law stems from systematic racism not only in Jackson and Madison County, but throughout the entire state of Tennessee, and the NAACP does not support this law or the recall of the board members.
“The NAACP believe they were dually elected, and they should be able to serve out their terms,” Harrell says. “I think we’re better people than this.”