Curry, Williams to face off for Germantown Board of Education seat

By , Daily Memphian Published: September 14, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Two names familiar to the Germantown Municipal School District board will seek Position 3, open with Chairwoman Rebecca Luter’s decision not to return. 

Brian Curry and Scott Williams are running to replace Luter in the only contested race on the suburban board. Curry ran two years ago, but lost to Betsy Landers. Williams is the husband of former school board member Natalie Williams, a member of the suburb’s first school board for two years before Suzanne Jones defeated her for the seat in 2016.

<strong>Brian Curry</strong>

Brian Curry

“I feel like I have the skill set and the (desire) to serve,” said Curry, who spent the past two years on the Forest Hill Elementary Parent Teacher Organization board and serves on the board of Farmington Presbyterian Day School.

Curry’s children attended Dogwood Elementary, but now one is at Houston Middle and the other has moved to Forest Hill Elementary.

While Williams has not spent time on a PTO, he taught for four years near Atlanta before attending law school. He is a parent of two special-needs students who transferred within the district to Riverdale School. 

“(School board) is a natural evolution of my desire to serve,” said Williams, who is finishing a three-year term on the Leadership Germantown’s board.

<strong>Scott Williams</strong>

Scott Williams

Although both work at Federal Express, they feel they bring different perspectives to the board. Curry works on policies and procedures for field operations, and feels the operational perspective is missing from the board.

Williams is part of the legal team. Incoming board member Ryan Strain – who is running unopposed for Position 1 – is also an attorney. Williams noted Strain works in private practice whereas he helps draft policies at FedEx, and the board often votes on policies.


Ryan Strain to run unopposed for Germantown Board of Education


“Policy is providing written guidance to the superintendent, the guardrails on how to run the district,” Williams said, noting it reflects community priorities. “The administrative things are trying to make a good decision, a wise decision. Taking all the information, taking all the facts and making the best decision you can based on what you know.”

According to Curry, the board adopts policy in line with the strategic plan, but board members do not “micromanage classrooms.”

“The district office has the education professionals that are able to execute the policies and procedures that are set by the board,” he said.

One of the most pressing issues board members must address immediately following the Nov. 3 election is the ongoing pandemic.

Whether parents choose virtual or in-person for their students, Curry wants to assure them Germantown is a “superior product” and “the option.” A lot of concerns parents expressed last spring were based on state decisions. Curry noted GMSD could not teach and test the same as private schools.

One of his daughters is learning through Houston Middle’s hybrid model, and he knows the three at-home days are more challenging.

“I just hope we can get back to business as normal, which includes education as normal too,” Williams said.

Schools are remediating information students may have missed at the end of the last academic year. Although special- needs students are able to attend full-time, he knows it is not the case for the majority.

“(Hybrid and virtual are) just not the same as in-person,” Williams said. “It is not as effective as in-person instruction.”

Both long for a day when the climate is safe enough to send students back to school full-time.

One of the biggest annual votes is the budget, and it often highlights district-wide priorities. Some of those are capital needs, but some are for staff and programming.

The board recently funded new band facilities and made some auditorium upgrades following a June 2019 flood. Williams said the investment shows priority of the arts in addition to a a recent focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

However, Curry believes more should be done with arts programs. While there is heavy attention toward STEM, he believes the district could emphasize STEAM and add arts-focused programs.

“Science and math are important. I’m not saying they are not,” Curry said. “I think we’re missing an opportunity to reach students that operate in that creative wavelength. We need to make sure we appeal to them and make sure we are not missing anyone.”

Additionally, both candidates want to make sure social and emotional well-being remain a priority for the district.


Germantown strives to nurture students’ emotional well-being


Both candidates want the Board of Education to develop a better working relationship with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen as quality schools are the reason many move to Germantown.

Williams said the city’s investment is focused on long-term outcomes, including the expansion at Riverdale, a roof at Dogwood and security upgrades.

He is thankful for the mayor and aldermen’s contributions, but he thinks some board members view the schools as a “burden rather than an investment.”

“If we have the time and the energy and the relationship to change their minds, that would be something I would want to convince the (board) to see the schools as an asset to the community rather than a burden to city government,” he said.

“We have to be in better alignment because at the end of the day we serve the same constituency,” Curry said. “We answer to the same voters, but we have to come to (the mayor and aldermen) and operate in good faith.”

According to Curry, the Board of Education needs to show it is maximizing funding by charging tuition to students who live outside of Germantown city limits, and Collierville has already begun that.

“It’s time, and we need to make sure we are being fair to our taxpayers,” Curry said. “If we are as good as we say we are – and I believe that to be the case – we shouldn’t have any trouble getting people to come to our schools.”


Germantown school district will not enforce tuition for non-residents in 2019-20


Williams says a cost-benefit analysis to charging tuition is needed; the idea may not be in the district’s best interest. The issue is primarily at Houston High as there is limited room at elementary levels, he added.

“We depend on students from outside of the district to make sure we have adequate enrollment to provide all the various programs that we provide at the high school level,” Williams said, noting students may not come due to a cost.

He said he understands the argument to charge, but does not want to potentially jeopardize enrollment.

Although the district set aside funds for an addition at Houston Middle School, funding concerns related to coronavirus stalled the expansion.

Curry and Williams echoed each other, saying the addition is “desperately needed.”

The numbers before the coronavirus highlighted the needs for more facilities at the middle school level.


School construction postponed as Germantown grapples with financial effects of COVID-19


“We can’t go back to a world of portables,” Curry said. “That’s what we were trying to get out of. We’ve got to be fair to our kids. I am hopeful we will be able to get some funding and make a move on the middle school level.”

School board elections are nonpartisan and members serve at-large for four-year terms.

In addition to Position 1 and Position 3, Position 5 is on the ballot and incumbent Amy Eoff is running unopposed for a second term.

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Topics

Germantown Germantown Board of Education Scott Williams Brian Curry
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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