County campaign profiles: District 6 Board of Education

Independent challenger

Phillip Michael Sherman

• How will you, based on accomplishments, qualifications and experience, be able to better serve the people?

“I have spent the past 16 years working in higher education. Lots of Knox County School graduates have passed through my classroom.

“I know what one of the ‘next steps’ after graduation looks like and what is required for post-graduation success. I believe we can always improve how we are preparing students to enter the workforce or pursue additional education.”

• Name one or two specific votes/issue stances from your opponent where you strongly disagree?

“The past two years have been challenging for everyone. I am absolutely convinced that Knox County Schools and the Board of Education cannot afford to pursue narrow and partisan goals if we want to support excellence for all students.

“The cost to teacher morale and student success is too high. It would be easy to say that the debates and rancor on the Board over the past two years were only about the pandemic. I believe there was a more fundamental failure of professionalism by some on the Board.

“Unfortunately, the current Board representative for District 6 did not seek to build consensus and unnecessarily engaged on multiple occasions in rhetoric on social media, which further divided members of the community.

“We need Board members who are committed to building consensus, listening to and learning from all voices and offering positive solutions to the challenges facing the school system.”

• What are two things you’d like to help change, or help implement, with Knox County Schools as a whole?

“I believe in transparency and accountability for members of the Board of Education. I would like to see a complete review of how all constituencies can better communicate with Board members and a clearer set of expectations for how members are to respond.

“I also believe that student voices are essential and are currently under-appreciated. While there is a Student Representative on the Board of Education, they remain a non-voting member and are given the impossible task of representing 63,000 students.

“We should find new ways to empower students to be more involved in the decisions being made about their own education.”

• Two things you’d like to help 6th District schools obtain in the next four years?

“The 6th District is the fastest growing district in the county. Keeping pace with growth itself will be a big challenge.

“The next board representative will need to find new ways to listen carefully to all the schools in the district and address their individual needs. There remains a tremendous amount of real need in the district.

“Some schools benefit from large PTAs/PTSOs and their ability to contribute large sums of money to campus improvements.

“Other schools within the district, however, lack those financial resources. I would encourage a greater focus on cooperation amongst the schools in the district.

“I want all students in the 6th District to have the same opportunities to succeed.”

Incumbent Republican

Betsy Henderson

• Based on what you’ve accomplished in office, and your qualifications and experience, why should you be re-elected?

“When I was elected to the Knox County School Board in the fall of 2020, I said I would ensure that parents’ voices were heard. While we didn’t fully appreciate how important that would be, I have worked hard to honor that commitment every day.

“Parents are an essential part in making sure education is great in Knox County. I’m running for re-election because I believe in the future of Knox County. The last few years were incredibly tough on our kids and educators, but we have an opportunity to provide a world-class education to ensure that every child is prepared for the future. In a short period of time, we have meaningfully increased teacher pay by 8 percent, made historic investments in education, re-imagined the high school experience, approved the construction of a new elementary school in District 6 and an expansion of Hardin Valley Academy to support our growing community, and appointed a new superintendent who will lead us into the future.”

• Name two of your proudest votes/stances?

“I am most proud for standing up for parents’ rights on a number of issues. I was honored that the Tennessee State PTA recognized my service by naming me the Outstanding School Board Member for 2021-2022.

“I also partnered with Mayor Glenn Jacobs and the Knox County Education Foundation to lead One Book Read City, a countywide early literary program, which provided over 30,000 students and teachers grades K-5 the same book along with a curriculum and a countywide scavenger hunt with over 100 locations.”

• Two things you hope the Board will accomplish in the next four years?

“I want our accomplishments to be student-focused and ensure parents are part of the process. We need a Parents’ Bill of Rights to embed in the culture of KCS the fact that parents are an essential part of their child receiving a world-class education.

“I am passionate about early literacy and hope to continue my work with our new county-wide literacy program, One Book Read City, as we roll out year two of the program. We have to put the emphasis back on getting the basics and making sure our children are mastering foundational skills.

“I am also excited to see the work continue to strengthen college and career readiness. I had the privilege of serving on the Ford Next Generation committee to re-imagine the high school experience. It’s a great opportunity to take our high schools to the next level and prepare our next generation to be successful. “