By Bill Short
Position 3 School Board member Mark Coulter, seeking his second term, is being challenged by Deanna Speight in the Nov. 3 Millington city elections.
Speight, who has a doctorate in nursing practice, is currently a nurse practitioner in Munford and a member of the Millington Area Chamber of Commerce.
She and her husband, a Memphis firefighter, have two daughters who are both Trojan Volleyball players at Millington Central High School.
Educated in the Millington schools, Coulter is co-owner of ParCou. He is a member of the Millington Area Chamber of Commerce and a referee with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.
Coulter and his wife Stacey have two children and one granddaughter.
Both candidates recently responded to the following questions prepared and distributed by The Millington Star:
- What additional policies do you think the newly elected school board should adopt after it is sworn in?
Speight said teachers with Master’s Degrees should receive Master’s pay. She also recommends a “stricter” policy for out-of-district transfers and more resources for children with disabilities.
Coulter said the board needs to continue working with the Tennessee School Board Association and local school leaders to:
(a) make sure the policies are aligned with the regulations in the Tennessee Code Annotated; and
(b) adjust the policies to address safety, educational and staffing needs that are specific to Millington schools.
- List three significant issues in this election.
While both candidates cited COVID-19 management, Speight also listed a lack of vocational training programs and “greater autonomy” for each school principal, with less “micromanagement” from the superintendent.
Coulter also mentioned school safety and continued staffing.
- Specifically, how do you plan to deal with each of these issues, if elected or re-elected?
Speight said she will recommend changes to current policies that include the issues she cited and more as they develop.
Coulter said he will work “fluidly and rapidly” with the board and superintendent to address the needs of students, staff, parents/guardians and the administration during the pandemic.
He also pledged to help develop policies/plans to ensure that the system’s four schools are physically and environmentally safe.
Coulter said the board must work closely with the state and local governmental bodies to identify additional “salary funding needs” and incorporate “incentive pay” opportunities for teachers who have Master’s or Doctorate degrees.
- What do you think is the biggest concern facing the municipal school system at this time?
Speight cited a lack of resources to help students with disabilities.
“My 16-year-old was forced to home-school after they did not want to deal with her anxiety,” she noted. “We need more resources that don’t involve sending these kids to alternative school.”
During the pandemic, Coulter said, the system must continue to provide safe opportunities for “in-person” and “virtual” student education and school activities such as sports.
- What do you think should be the school system’s next priority in implementing its Five-Year Capital Improvements Plan?
Both candidates cited the scheduled closure of E. A. Harrold Elementary School at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.
While Speight recommends a new school for Harrold students, Coulter said the board should develop the best possible plans for students and staff to “transition” into existing facilities.
- What specifically makes you best qualified for the position you are seeking or seeking to retain?
Speight said her medical training will help the board deal with COVID-19, and her two daughters will benefit from new policies adopted.
She noted that, of all the “elective” programs offered, none interested her “ninth-grader” or specifically pertained to what she wants to do for a living.
“I’m sure there are other children out there like her,” Speight said, “and I want to help them.”
In addition to his service on the school board, Coulter said he has been a “productive and involved” Millington resident, parent and business owner for his entire adult life.
He also noted that his 20-plus professional working years in and around schools and educational systems have given him direct insight into daily operations and “efficiency gains.”
“My early years as a member of the Millington Fire Department provide me with unique insight into emergency and health safety as well,” he concluded.