Wright Cox looks toward next term, future of Collierville Schools

By , Daily Memphian Published: October 29, 2020 5:41 PM CT
<strong>&ldquo;I think we have to continue to question everything,&rdquo; said Collierville municipal school district board member Wright Cox, seen here in 2019. &ldquo;I think we need to be questioning and look for new and innovative ways to improve, always being willing to listen to new ideas, innovative ways to move forward.&rdquo;</strong> (Brandon Dill/Daily Memphian file)

“I think we have to continue to question everything,” said Collierville municipal school district board member Wright Cox, seen here in 2019. “I think we need to be questioning and look for new and innovative ways to improve, always being willing to listen to new ideas, innovative ways to move forward.” (Brandon Dill/Daily Memphian file)

As Wright Cox looks toward his next four years on the Collierville Schools board, he knows COVID-19 is the most pressing challenge the leaders will face.

Cox, who has spent his entire life in Collierville, has been on the board since the district’s inception. He is running unopposed for Position 5 and enjoys the office “a great, great deal.”


Mark Hansen will not seek reelection for Collierville Schools board


“I think I have more to offer, and this is my home,” he said. “I just didn’t feel like it was time to step aside. I think you need to have a transition. We can’t all step aside at the same time.”

State Rep. Kevin Vaughan stepped down from the school board in 2019, and Mark Hansen is not seeking re-election. Cox and Wanda Chism are the only members left from the original board.

The Cox family’s fingerprint is on the district, though. His father, Mayor Herman Wright Cox Jr., and Tom Brooks, the former vice mayor, pushed for a suburban school district long before it became a reality. They wanted to ensure local decisions were made for Collierville students. 

Cox’s grandfather, C.H.Harrell, was the principal of Collierville High School from 1935 until 1942. Cox considers him an inspiration.

“He was the finest man I ever knew,” he said. “He had an innate sense of being able to see the potential in people. He could see what their talents were, and he helped steer people toward those talents.”

Cox is proud of helping form the district, opening the new high school and establishing a strong working relationship with the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

But it’s time for the district to look ahead.

“I think we have to continue to question everything,” he said. “I think we need to be questioning and look for new and innovative ways to improve, always being willing to listen to new ideas, innovative ways to move forward.”

The pandemic will be the most immediate concern at the start of Cox’s next term.

He understands many people want children in school and knows that’s the best outcome. He is excited for students to spend more days in the classroom soon.

“You learn so much more,” he said. “You learn life skills in schools, interacting with other people, learning relationship skills and all that that you don’t learn in a book.”

However, the pandemic has also opened doors for children who can thrive learning virtually, Cox noted.

“I sure would like to see us have a robust, outstanding virtual learning experience for our children,” he said. “The whole avenue of virtual learning, I don’t think that’s going away for our schools or any schools.”

He said the world is changing in light of the pandemic and that extends to education.

“How is that new normal in the way our world operates going to affect our school system?” he asked. “That whole online learning piece I think can be important as well because in a lot of ways that’s the way the world is going to operate. … It’s an opportunity for where we are going.”

He said that will help prepare students for the future.

The shifting times and different approaches to school also affects the budget but some costs are fixed annually. Cox said some “hard decisions” may come moving forward.

Collierville doesn’t have a hard time recruiting teachers. The suburb is a desired landing spot.

“We have a pretty outstanding product to our teachers and anybody who wants to work for Collierville Schools,” he said. “It’s pretty great place.”

He said there are ways to continue to improve, but he wants to make sure Collierville remains competitive with neighboring districts.

In recent months, he has been particularly impressed by the educators.

“I cannot overstate what our teachers have done,” he said. “They have gone beyond the call of duty. They have been fabulous. They are essential workers in the truest sense of the word.”

Some community members have expressed concerns regarding whether the schools can absorb the town’s continued growth.

“For the immediate term, I think we are well-positioned,” Cox said. 

However, he said the district, by design, has fewer students in Tara Oaks Elementary, Sycamore Elementary and Schilling Farms Elementary because those areas are where officials expect growth.

When Collierville High School was built, it gave the district a larger middle school and opened a new elementary school. There’s also potential to expand the high school in the future if needed, according to Cox.

“The town is going to continue to grow,” he said. “There’s going to continue to be a need and how we address that need, we will have to get creative in dealing with that.”

In addition to Cox, Wanda Gibbs is running unopposed for Position 1. Four are facing off for Hansen’s seat, Position 3.


Four face off for open Collierville school board seat


“When our new board is set, I’m looking forward to where we can go together,” he said. “I’m a big believer in chemistry and having the right chemistry in an organization. … I would want that for our board going forward.”

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Topics

Collierville Collierville Schools Collierville Board of Education wright cox School Board Position 5 2020 collierville elections 2020 municipal elections
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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