Tuckered Out 

Loony Ex-Metro Council member losing steam in her bid to become the next schools director

In eight years on the Metro Council, Carolyn Baldwin Tucker lashed out against gay people, burst into song on the campaign trail and supported a resolution proclaiming “Jesus Christ as an actual man who was born over 2,000 years ago.” So when the popular black leader began positioning herself to be Nashville’s next schools director, it triggered waves of frantic gossip that she may have curried enough favor with the school board to get the job.

“There are so many rumors, innuendos and lies out there,” says council member Jerry Maynard, who sits on the education committee. “It’s like the Middle East of Nashville politics.”

People now say Tucker’s candidacy is fading fast, but the real question is how did it ever gain momentum from the start? Although the Scene first broke the news of Tucker’s interest in the job one week ago, it seemed then more like a delusional bid. Last August, then-council member Diane Neighbors walloped Tucker in the vice mayor’s race, seemingly banishing the former principal back to the religious hinterland that spawned her. But then, perhaps like the actual man who was born over 2,000 years ago, Tucker appeared to rise from the dead. Last week, several insiders began tagging Tucker as a serious candidate to replace Pedro Garcia as the next schools director after hearing reports that all five of the board’s black members were backing her candidacy. Influential pastor James Thomas also expressed admiration for the former council member during a meeting of the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship, a group of primarily black pastors. Then there’s the local teachers’ union, which backed Tucker in her race against the progressive Neighbors, and was expected to feather the former council member’s latest ambition.

“Our experience with Dr. Tucker in the past has been generally positive,” says Erick Huth, president of the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association. “She cares for teachers and for students.”

Tucker, meanwhile, dispatched a five-page résumé and cover letter to the mayor’s office and members of the school board, boasting of her lengthy experience as a teacher and administrator in the school system.

“As an educator of 38 years, I am very aware of the need for our school system to be led by a competent, capable, caring individual,” she wrote. “I believe I am that individual.”

When it appeared that Tucker might actually be racking up votes with the board, and backing outside of it, the mayor’s office started to put out feelers to gauge the level of her support. At least one local business leader did the same while a few members of the council’s education committee began lobbying board members to consider Tucker’s divisive record in public office.

Now Tucker’s candidacy appears to be losing momentum as several black board members have acknowledged in private conversations that they realize the perils of selecting a prospective leader who often launches into song at public events for no particular reason.

If that’s true, the question then is what took them so long. Tucker’s tenure in office featured a series of old-fashioned histrionics, including her angry and often inane opposition to a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance that would have given equal rights to gay city employees. Calling homosexuality a “lifestyle choice,” Tucker told The Tennessean that protecting gay people would be akin to safeguarding conduct like prostitution, alcoholism and lying. She even wondered whether the ordinance would protect public school employees who practice bestiality.

Tucker also found herself in the middle of just about every silly council folly, from her endorsement of the pro-Jesus resolution to her “affirmation and support of the use of the words ‘Christmas’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ when referring to Metro Government events or activities traditionally associated with Christmas.” Of course, those moments were positively Churchillian compared to when she railed against Musica, the collection of nude statues at the Music Row roundabout. Let’s not forget our onetime county leader voted against a feel-good resolution proclaiming a “Nashville Magic Week,” presumably because of her fears of the occult.

So what about fears of a Bible-beating songbird taking control of the school district? Her affable pastor, Dennis Michael Crowder at the Church of Christ at Jackson Street, says not to worry, though he isn’t particularly reassuring. He won’t directly answer whether Tucker would cast doubt on the theory of evolution in her position as a schools director, saying only that the “scripture itself answers your questions.” As to her qualifications for the job, Crowder says, “Dr. Carolyn Tucker is very, very intelligent; she’s a fine Christian lady, with a fine Christian husband with Christian children.”

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