2 candidates seeking elected office for first time in Bartlett race

By , Daily Memphian Published: October 15, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Two Bartlett residents who sought the vacant school board Position 1 seat 13 months ago are running against each other for the same seat in the November election.

Incumbent Portia Tate was unanimously appointed to the Board of Education by the suburb’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen in September 2019. Tate, a retired longtime educator, is now seeking a full four-year term.

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“I have been in the trenches of being a school teacher, an assistant principal and then principal,” Tate said. “I can help in knowing some of the ins and outs of what will be presented that the school board will have to face.”

Brad Ratliff, an associate minister at New Hope Christian Church, hopes his second attempt at the seat is a successful one. Ratliff hopes his perspective through his job, as a parent and football coach will make the difference with voters this time around.

<strong>Portia Tate</strong>

Portia Tate

“I want to give back and want to be part of that whole process,” Ratliff said. “I’ve always told my kids it’s super important for us to be part of solutions and not just to have problems, but to try to help and serve.”

Both Tate and Ratliff are running for elected office for the first time. The race is the only contested contest for a Bartlett school board seat this election cycle.

Incumbent school board members Shirley Jackson (Position 3) and David Cook (Position 5) are running unopposed in the other two Board of Education offices on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The Bartlett school board, made up of five members, creates policy, guidelines and adopts an annual budget for 11 Bartlett City Schools including six elementary schools, three middle schools, the Ninth Grade Academy and Bartlett High School.

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Before retiring in 2019, Tate was principal at Rivercrest Elementary School in Bartlett for 15 years. She was also a teacher at Bartlett Elementary and Millington Central Elementary.

Tate is serving the remainder of then-school board member Jeff Norris’ four-year term. He resigned in 2019 to become vice president of enrollment at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

For Tate, the biggest issue this election is the COVID-19 pandemic. Bartlett City Schools gave students and families the option of beginning the 2019-20 school year either virtual-only or in-person learning because of coronavirus restrictions.

<strong>Brad Ratliffe</strong>

Brad Ratliffe

Tate said transitioning students from a “new normal” back to in-person learning full time, when appropriate, will be a significant challenge for the school board.

“It is critical that we assure our parents that their children, teachers, staff and additional employees are entering a safe working environment,” Tate said. “It is also imperative that they know their children will continue to receive a first-rate education. This is important so that our children can return to school safely, all businesses can reopen, and for the return of the positive community spirit that is known in Bartlett.”

Ratliff has worked at New Hope Christian Church in Bartlett for more than 16 years. He’s also a football coach at Elmore Park Middle School and formerly coached at Bolton High and Woodland Presbyterian school.

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For Ratliff, better communication about key district-wide decisions, beyond social media, and asking more about the mental health of students and teachers are top priorities for him if elected.

“I probably talked to 100 different parents, and there is a mental toll that’s being taken upon our students,” he said. “They’re just trying to navigate this stuff. I just want to make sure that someone’s asking those questions. That someone is considering their mental health as well. If you make really good grades, but you graduate and you’re a wreck, have you accomplished anything?”

Early voting began Wednesday and runs through Oct. 29. Election Day is Nov. 3.


Portia Tate Brad Ratliff Bartlett City Schools 2020 Elections Bartlett
Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf covers Bartlett and North Memphis neighborhoods for The Daily Memphian. He also analyzes COVID-19 data each week. Omer is a former Jackson Sun reporter and University of Memphis graduate.


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