"Board has new look" was the Tennessean headline
this morning on its recap of Thursday's Nashville school board elections. What to make of the results? Um, it's a compelling display of anti-incumbency that will scale nationally this fall, yielding a significant change in the American political landscape? Yeah, whatever.
Seriously, though, it's hard to read too much across races because different things happened in different districts. Gracie Porter's win in District 5 by a wide margin comes off as a serious scolding of Metro Council for defying the wishes of the district when it named the well-meaning but underqualified Kay Brooks as the interim occupant of the vacant seat.
Perhaps there is a 'clean house' flavor to the failure of the incumbents Mebenin Awipi (District 6) and Kathleen Harkey (District 8) to hang onto their seats, but in substantive terms it's an odd message for "change," given that they were board members willing to challenge administrators rather than just swallow their approach and message whole. It's hard to see how electing people who are more rather than less inclined to support administrative status quo signals a lot of change over there at Bransford Avenue.
Was this a big day for the Chamber of Commerce and its SuccessPAC? That depends on how you spin the spin. The Chamber boasts
that it endorsed winners in four of five races. True, but one of those was the uncontested race in District 4. Another was Porter, who also had backing from progressives who are not particularly fond of the Chamber's role and agenda. In District 2, the Chamber backed Terri Harris, who lost to Jo Ann Brannon. So really, what SuccessPAC did was go two for three in the seriously contested races, successfully helping to oust the pair of incumbents who had voted last fall against renewing Pedro Garcia's contract. That's a pretty good day's work, no question, but it means the PAC's influence was significantly felt in just two of the five races on the ballot yesterday.
Was this a win for Pedro Garcia in a referendum on his future? In the short run perhaps, but beyond that it's not so clear. Sure, Harkey and Awipi are gone, but in my Scene
podcast interviews with newcomers Brannon, Porter, and Fox, I did not get the impression that they are going to blindly back the Garcia-Johnson approach to running things.
Having said all of that, the new board is an interesting mix. Two of the new board members are experienced educators with many years of experience in our school system. All of the board's newcomers seem like decent people who are seriously invested in making the system better. As an MNPS parent I am cautiously optimistic.