District 4 has had quite a bit of turbulence over the past decade, with what will soon be 5 different School Board members having served the area:
Tim McLaughlin (served 2008-2014, opted not to run again)
Paul Bartholomew (ran unopposed in 2014 as part of the 912-endorsed/Tea Party slate)
Brad Fiscus (elected in 2018, winning against Andy Voyles - Tim McLaughlin was on the ballot but announced he was supporting Voyles)
TBD - now that Fiscus has resigned, an interim member will be appointed in October 2021 to serve until August 2022.
For those unfamiliar, District 4 encompasses the Franklin area east of 65 around Hwy 96 up to Brentwood and over to Nolensville - think McKays Mill, Cool Springs East, Cedarmont, Villages of Clovercroft, Avalon, Chardonnay, Watkins Creek, Ivy Glen, Abington Ridge, Montclair. Schools represented include Clovercroft, Trinity, Kenrose, Woodland, Page, Centennial. At least until district lines get redrawn in November. You can lookup your district and voter registration here: TN VOTER LOOKUP.
So what happens now:
The County is accepting applications from District 4 residents who wish to vie for the open seat. The County Commissioners are all able to nominate someone at their October 11th meeting, and then all 24 of them vote and whoever receives the most votes wins and is sworn in at the next School Board meeting (which should be 10/18 unless something weird happens.)
Traditionally, the 2 County Commissioners in the open district interview candidates and make a joint nomination - somehow without deliberating in private so they don't violate Sunshine Laws. This worked well in 2016 when Susan Curlee (finally, thankfully) resigned and Nancy Garrett was nominated by the District 12 Commissioners and voted in without much drama.
However, the Commissioners in District 4 have had a solidly partisan history, and managed to make a mess of the process in 2015 after Bartholomew resigned. Gregg Lawrence (still on the Commission) and Kathy Danner (replaced in 2018 by Chad Story) apparently thought that whoever they nominated was a shoe-in and tried to take advantage of the situation to get a HIGHLY controversial and inflammatory textbook-activist onto the nonpartisan School Board. Laurie Cardoza-Moore was already infamous in state circles due to her anti-Muslim activism, including leading efforts in opposition to a Murfreesboro mosque which landed her a feature on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Side note: She's now on the Tennessee State Textbook Committee, and attended the Jan. 6th insurrection in D.C. - this is required reading for her storied background.
Luckily, WCS parents said a collective "um, I don't THINK so" and bombarded the County Commissioners with emails and social media outrage, leading Cardoza-Moore to drop out of the process.
An important reminder: this was already an incredibly contentious time for the School Board - if you're unfamiliar with the 912-endorsed members and their ensuing drama, we invite you to google "Susan Curlee" or "Beth Burgos." Williamson Strong exists as a reaction to the election of such extremist political player and their backers who are still working behind the scenes here in Williamson County.
Danner and Lawrence got to try again, and their new nominee, Chris Koczaja (who is genuinely one of the nicest guys) went up against fellow WCS parents Jane McGrath and Anne McGraw, with McGraw receiving the majority vote after two rounds of voting.
In the 2018 election, Chad Story and Gregg Lawrence ran joint Commissioner campaigns, at times together with School Board candidate Andy Voyles who lost out to Fiscus. Story and Lawrence received campaign donations from many of the 2014 election 912-backers, as well as from Marsha Blackburn's PAC.
IF YOU DO NOT READ A SINGLE OTHER LINKED ARTICLE, PLEASE READ THIS ONE as these are the Commissioners who will be trying to select the new District 4 School Board member in a few weeks:
From the archives:
Just this summer, Lawrence received the biggest public hand-slap we've ever witnessed out of Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson when Lawrence tried to do a last-minute tax rate amendment to the county budget after months and months of budget discussions. Story seconded the amendment that would have eliminated the raise for all county employees, including WCS teachers. You can watch the exchange here.
Here's where you all come in:
District 4 residents have until September 30th to apply to the Mayor's office to get their name in the running. We'll do an overview of the candidates based on as much as we can find (aka googling), and are sure the local press will do an excellent job on profiles and maybe even a public forum.
ALL DISTRICT 4 RESIDENTS need to be prepared to email the ENTIRE County Commission with their choice for the interim appointment.
BUT ALL WCS parents need to also be ready to email the Commissioners as well, and encourage a nomination and vote for the person you believe will be the best fit for the Board. This D4 Board member will be there for some key votes on COVID-related items, the 2021-22 WCS budget, policy updates, etc. before the August 2022 election when the seat will be back on the ballot.
Just as importantly, we'd really like to avoid drama. We all deserve some peace and quiet, and a contentious appointment is the worst thing that can happen to distract from the focus on our students and staff. We'd love to see a public school parent in that seat, who doesn't care about advancing their own divisive agenda and just wants their kids - and all of our kids - to have the best educational experience possible.
Stay alert. Stay engaged. Make sure everyone you know is doing the same. And stay tuned for the next steps....