Shelby County Schools board races feature a majority of positions

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 14, 2020 4:00 AM CT | Published: July 14, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles about all the races on the Nov. 3 ballot as the July 17-Aug. 1 early voting period for the Aug. 6 primaries begins.

A majority of the nine-member Shelby County Schools board is on the Aug. 6 ballot and in all five cases, the incumbent is seeking re-election at a time of change and uncertainty for the state’s largest school system.

Early voting in advance of the Aug. 6 election day starts Friday, July 17, and runs through Aug. 1.

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As the early vote begins and some Shelby County voters are already casting their ballots through absentee mail-in voting, there is another choice the parents of SCS students are making.

The day after early voting starts is the deadline for parents to indicate whether they want their children to attend in-person classes or attend virtual classes through digital tablets and similar devices.

In the first week, 76% of the more than 10,000 parents who responded indicated they want their children to attend virtual classes.

The decisions are a commitment for at least the first semester of the first school year. The global COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state’s largest school system at the spring break mark of the 2019-2020 academic year.

SCS superintendent says most parents picking online classes for coming semester

As early voting is underway, 95,000 devices will be distributed to SCS students for the new school year.

The school board has staggered terms by state law, meaning in two years the other four school board positions will be on the ballot.

Unlike the other six elected school boards in Shelby County, the board positions on the ballot are for specific districts.

The district lines for the nine Shelby County Schools districts are unlike any in Shelby County politics. The maps of the districts come with bios of the nine current school board members with a listing of the schools in each district.

They take in areas that are not contiguous, reflecting a political choice by the Shelby County Commission in setting the district lines as well as the geography of a school district that includes the city of Memphis and unincorporated areas of Shelby County outside Memphis.

Here is the Shelby County Election Commission’s tool for finding what district you live in. It also shows the districts for state legislative and Congressional primary races on the August ballot.

The school board district boundaries were set in advance of the 2014 demerger of public education in Shelby County. The boundaries are due to be reset following the 2020 U.S. Census.

While all five incumbents are seeking re-election this year to new terms of four years, only four of the races are competitive. Each has offered thoughts on the job if elected. 

District 2 board member Althea Greene is running unopposed. She was effectively re-elected to a new term at the April 2 deadline to file qualifying petitions.

She was appointed to the school board in February 2019 after Teresa Jones became a city court judge.

District 5 incumbent Scott McCormick faces four challengers for the largest field of any of the set of races. He ran unopposed in 2016, after claiming the seat in the first school board elections in 2014.

Like the district lines, the staggering of terms had its own complexities. Seven of the nine school board seats were on the ballot in 2014.

During his current term on the school board, McCormick made an unsuccessful bid for the state House as the Republican nominee.

Challenger Mauricio Calvo, the director of Latino Memphis, comes to the race from an unsuccessful bid for the Memphis City Council in 2019.

The race also includes April Ghueder, Sheleah Harris and Paul Evelyn Allen.

District 4 incumbent Kevin Woods initially decided not to seek re-election this election year, then reconsidered and filed for the race in the early days of the pandemic, citing the uncertainty created by the virus.

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Woods is one of two incumbents on the nine-member board who were appointed to the transitional Shelby County Schools board by the County Commission and then elected to the original seven-member countywide school board before the county’s schools merger in 2013 and the demerger that followed in 2014.

The demerger prompted the commission to add two seats to the school board and redraw district lines to take out those areas of the county within the six suburban towns and cities that formed their own school systems. The district seats of the other original member – Billy Orgel -- is not on the ballot this year.

Woods’ re-entry into the race this year cleared several contenders who withdrew from the race and publicly endorsed Woods. But he faces three challengers: Clyde Wayne Pinkston, Tamarques Porter and Kristy Sullivan.

District 3 incumbent Stephanie Love, first elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2016, faces Jesse Jeff, of the Memphis Shelby County Education Association and Aaron Youngblood.

And District 7 incumbent and school board chairwoman Miska Clay Bibbs has a challenger for the first time in her school board tenure with opposition from Trevor Johnson Banks. Bibbs ran unopposed in her 2014 debut and again in 2016.


Shelby County Schools board 2020 Election

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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