Posted on October 3, 2013.
By Bill Short
With 10 candidates running for seven positions on Millington’s first municipal school board, the Nov. 7 election will feature only three contested races. Oscar Brown and Cecilia J. Haley will be competing for Position 2, Jennifer Carroll and Thomas D. Stephens for Position 6, and Donald K. Holsinger and Charles P. Reed for Position 7. The four uncontested candidates will be Gregory Ritter for Position 1, Charles G. Hurt for Position 3, Cody Childress for Position 4 and Louise Kennon for Position 5. The candidates filed their qualifying petitions before the deadline at noon last Thursday in the Shelby County Election Commission Office. The school board election will be conducted on a non-partisan basis, and all the members will be eligible for re-election. Members will be initially elected to the even-numbered positions 2, 4 and 6 for one-year terms, while those initially elected to the odd-numbered positions 1, 3, 5 and 7 will serve three-year terms. But all members subsequently elected, other than those who fill a vacancy, will serve four-year terms. The members will take office on Dec. 1, following certification of the Nov. 7 election results. Annual compensation will be $2,400 for the board members and $3,000 for the board chairman. Vacancies occurring on the school board will be filled by the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen through appointment. An appointed member will serve until a successor is chosen in the next general election for which candidates have sufficient time to qualify under applicable law. During telephone interviews last weekend, the candidates in the three contested races discussed what inspired them to get involved in the election process. Brown said he really wants to see Millington “get ahead in the schools” and “take charge of its own destiny” in that area. “I think we have the potential to have a really great school system,” he noted. “And I want to make sure I put my hand in that and do my part.” Citing a need for people to “step up” and be “a part of things” in the community, Brown said he has been actively involved on the “educational side” for years. Retired from the U.S. Air Force after 21 years, he has served as an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor in the Memphis City School System and as a substitute teacher in the Shelby County School System. He said he is “still involved” with Millington Central High School and its football program. “I think the kids are our future,” Brown concluded. “And it’s very important that we do everything we can to ensure that they have every opportunity to be successful.” Haley, who has a 10-year-old son enrolled in the public school system, said she does not want someone making decisions about his education without her “input.” “My son is my inspiration for everything I do,” she acknowledged. “I try to be a better person every day for him.” A native of Mississippi, Haley said she has lived in Tennessee most of her life, including Memphis and Bartlett. She has been a resident of Millington since she and her husband got married in 1999. Because she believes the city has a lot of potential, Haley considers a municipal school district an opportunity to fully realize it. “I feel like we’re either going to do it, or this community’s going to die out,” she concluded. “If we can get the schools right, everything else is going to work out.” Carroll, a lifelong resident of Millington, also believes the city has “an amazing opportunity” to make “great neighborhood schools.” A teacher in the county school system for 10 years, she resigned in May to go to work for the Achievement School District this academic year. With an 8-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter who both attend Lucy Elementary, she said Millington needs to set its schools up for “success.” Because of her firsthand experience in the “educator’s voice,” Carroll believes she has “a great abundance of information” about what “comes together” to build a “great school and a great system.” “I think we need that voice to speak out for the teachers and administrators,” she concluded. “I know exactly what the students need in that classroom and what our budget needs to go toward to make those students successful.” Stephens, a full-time Germantown firefighter who lives in Millington, said he is “so glad” that the city decided to create its own school system. “I think that’s wonderful,” he noted. “I think the kids will benefit better from all that.” Because it is “something completely new” for the city, Stephens acknowledged that it will be “a building process” from the “ground level” that could be “excellent.” But he also said it will be “fun,” as well as “interesting.” “It’s going to be a building experience for whoever gets elected in any of the positions,” he concluded. “There are going to be steppingstones, but you have to start small and aim big.” Holsinger said this is probably one of the most important elections that the city will have in a long time. Although he called it “a new thing,” he noted that the school system must be created properly. “We haven’t got a do-over,” he acknowledged. “We’ve got to do it right the first time. We’ve got to make it right for the kids and for Millington.” Holsinger said all 10 candidates are interested in trying to make the schools a good school system. They also recognize that it will be a “tough job initially” and require a lot of work. Although he wishes there were enough candidates to have seven contested races, Holsinger expressed hope that as many residents as possible get out and vote after attending a forum, if one is conducted. He also said he believes the candidates will attempt to “get together” soon and meet each other. “We’re all in it for the same thing,” he concluded. “I don’t think anybody’s an enemy of anybody, even if somebody’s running against someone.” Reed, who taught biology at Millington Central High School and has worked in other areas of education, considers the school system the “cornerstone” of the community. He also thinks it is “very important” for a school board candidate to have a “working knowledge” of how education all works together and what is expected of teachers. Reed said he is trying to make Millington’s schools “something that people will be proud of,” where children learn, do well and then go on to become “good, productive” residents of the community. If the city does that, he thinks more people will take another look at it.
“If you have good schools, I believe that will attract people,” he concluded. “If you have the people, that will attract industry and business.”