Kevin Woods, who has been on the Shelby County Schools board since the historic merger of city and county school systems changed the face of education in Memphis, said Monday he will not seek re-election.
This year’s election has the potential to change the majority of seats on the nine-member school board, which selected Superintendent Joris Ray last April after abandoning a national search. Ray currently enjoys the support of most board members and could lose that support if the majority of seats get new members.
Woods told Chalkbeat on Monday that the district has made significant progress on the issues he campaigned on, such as expanded access to pre-kindergarten, more community engagement, and more funding for school facilities.
“While there’s great work left to be done, I must also be mindful of the time commitment board members must take away from their family and jobs,” he said.
Chairwoman Miska Clay Bibbs told Chalkbeat last week she has not decided whether she will seek re-election, while Althea Greene, Stephanie Love, and Scott McCormick said they will run in the Aug. 6 election.
School board races for Shelby County Schools are staggered every two years, meaning about half of the board is up for election every two years. This year’s election is for districts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, which cover most neighborhoods north of Poplar Avenue plus South Memphis and Hickory Hill.
Monday is the first day candidates can start pulling petitions to earn a spot on the Aug. 6 ballot. Candidates cannot represent a political party and must gather and turn in 25 signatures from voters in their districts by April 2. School board members serve four-year terms and are paid $25,000 per year.
The county commission appointed Woods to the board in 2011 as plans for merging city and county school systems got underway. He won a 2012 election by a narrow margin, defeating Kenneth Whalum, an outspoken Memphis pastor and former school board member. Woods was board chair during the one year the districts were actually merged in 2013. The next year six suburban districts formed and split from the district. Woods is currently the Memphis market president for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
Only one seat was contested the last time this group of school board members ran in 2016. Incumbent Stephanie Love, whose district includes Frayser and Raleigh, defeated Sharon Fields, then a secretary for a state-run school, with 60% of the vote. Bibbs, McCormick, and Woods ran unopposed. The county commission appointed Greene, a retired teacher, last February after Teresa Jones stepped down to accept a judgeship.
Candidates must be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and cannot work for the district.
Early voting for the Aug. 6 election will run from July 17 to Aug. 1.
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