Leaders of Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special School District said that they are uncomfortable with a new law allowing for partisan ballots in school board elections.
School board races had not included a party affiliation next to a candidate’s name on the ballot. The new law will allow county political parties to declare whether a race will become partisan. The county political parties have 30 days from when the legislation became law Nov. 12 to call for the partisan primary for school board positions.
If a party decides that, it could hold a primary election or a caucus to determine candidates. If a party decides to create a partisan race, the affiliations for that party will appear on the ballot.
Only three of the seven Wilson County Schools board members responded to a Wilson Post request for comments about the new law.
“I don’t have a comment. I don’t think that deserves a comment. What does political affiliation have to do with being a school board member?” Board Chairman Larry Tomlinson said.
Kimberly McGee, whose Zone 6 seat is up for election in 2022, said, “I agree with and believe in transparency. I will follow the law. When appropriate, I will make a decision and a statement but feel it is too early to do so now. My focus is on ensuring the best education for all Wilson County students.”
The Zone 3 seat of new board member Melissa Lynn is also up for election in 2022. She was appointed to fill the seat after Jon White resigned earlier this year.
“I believe school boards represent all students and teachers and should not be required to declare a party. I do not plan to declare a party when I run for the board seat in August,” she said. “As far as what the governor has signed, I will abide by whatever laws or mandates that are put in place.”
WCS Director Jeff Luttrell said, “when it comes to political partisanship for any person that takes the role of a school board member, I truly believe that no matter what party side a person is on, the common objective and goal among public school boards is to do what’s in the best interest for students and teachers. I proudly work for our school board and will always strive to provide a quality education for all students in Wilson County Schools.”
Lebanon Special School District chairman Steve Jones, who said he will run for re-election in 2024, said, “the boardroom is not the place for politics. It is my hope that this doesn’t happen here locally.”
LSSD Director Scott Benson said, “I’m not in favor (of the partisan elections). School board members should be concerned with what’s in the best interest of our students and not partisan politics. I hope it’s not a slippery slope.”
Tennessee Republican State Executive Committee member Terri Nicholson talked about some details the bill.
“A person who would be interested in running for a seat on the school board would decide for themselves how they would like to identify, if at all,” she said. “The full choice lies with the candidate running.
“Wilson County has new people moving into our county daily. The primary helps them know more about a candidate they have never met. It’s the best opportunity for transparency.”