Luter named to fill vacancy on Germantown school board

By Published: September 25, 2018 1:10 PM CT

With children in the Germantown Municipal School District, a leadership role in two of the suburb’s churches and a background of education in her family, the Rev. Rebecca Luter believes she brings the necessary traits to her new role on the suburb’s school board.

On Monday night, the suburb’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously selected Luter to fill the Position 3 vacancy on the Board of Education. The vacancy was created when Suzanne Jones, elected two years ago, resigned after her family moved to Pennsylvania.

“I’m humbled and surprised, but eager to get started on it,” Luter said after her selection. “I believe I bring a unique skill set to the table when we really are at a point for strategic planning and establishing our ethos. I have experience with strategic planning and conflict resolution, and with helping people come together as a community and work together. That’s what I feel called to do.” 

Luter was selected after a list of 19 applicants was narrowed to eight by the Germantown BMA on Sept. 17. Charles Buffington, Trent Fleming, Mary McDonald, Connie Mungle, David Pickler, Marjorie Reynolds, Patricia Toarmina and Luter were interviewed late last week. 

“I was interested in having a candidate with a variety of qualities, certainly education and the ability to understand budgeting, a secure understanding of the role of a school board member – what it is and what it is not. Someone with leadership experience and someone who would support the district,” said Alderman Forrest Owens, who nominated Luter. 

Luter is a Rhodes College graduate with a degree in biology. She earned her Master’s degree in divinity from Virginia Union in Richmond, Virginia. She served as an associate pastor at Germantown Methodist Church for 14 years and has been at Farmington Presbyterian for the past four years. She is also a cancer survivor.  

With two children in the GMSD and her husband a teacher at Collierville High, she has deep ties to education. Her mother is a vice president of Dyersburg State Community College, and her father, father-in-law and two brothers-in law are retired teachers. Her mother-in-law is a former middle school principal. 

“So, I’m surrounded by educators. We’re very committed to public education and believe in it,” said Luter, a Leadership Germantown graduate. “I get it, and between seminary and my first position at Germantown Methodist, where I taught preschool, I’ve been in the classroom, albeit not at a certified school. So, I know what the teachers face – to some degree – every day.”

Aldermen John Barzizza and Dean Massey nominated and supported other applicants initially, but ultimately supported Luter's nomination.

“I gave a lot of weight to the opinion of my friend Suzanne Jones as we discussed which applicants had the skills and characteristics that would reflect the will of the voters who elected Mrs. Jones to be their voice on the school board,” said Massey, later adding Jones favored Reynolds. Massey said Jones “felt that it was very important to the voters for the BMA to select an applicant who also has children in the school district.”

Alderwoman and Vice Mayor Mary Anne Gibson said she believes Luter possesses the characteristics to become an extraordinary school board member, including a clear vision for the district and the ability to make decisions in students’ best interests. 

“Reverend Luter’s greatest strengths are her abilities to weigh complex issues in a manner that encourages dialogue to find the best possible solutions,” said Gibson. “I would be proud to serve with each of the candidates that we interviewed, and I thank them all for making the decision so difficult.” 

Owens touted Luter’s honesty, transparency and “children-first” mentality. 

“My kids are in the school system,” said Owens. “We need someone who is a bridge-builder, someone who is a collaborator, and someone who is a consensus-maker. We need to get back to civil discourse. We need to get back to being neighbors. We may disagree and vigorously debate one another, but at the end of the night we move forward harmoniously.” 

Luter’s  priorities, she said, are simply to get acclimated and determine a course of action.  

“Building community is going to be essential for us to be effective and efficient, which is one of the visions of the five-point strategic plan: that the board will work together efficiently and effectively,” said Luter. “The other four arms of that plan can’t happen if we don’t. So, I see my role as really working to make sure the board works well together.” 


Germantown Municipal Schools Suzanne Jones Rebecca Luter Germantown Education
Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian with more than 20 years of professional writing and editorial experience, working most recently with The Daily News and High Ground News.

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