published Friday, August 8th, 2014

Hamilton County Board of Education gets two new faces

With 19 people seeking five contested seats on the nine-member Hamilton County Board of Education, a lot could have changed Thursday night.

But only two new faces are coming to the school board — and that was guaranteed due to the retirement of school board members Mike Evatt and Jeffrey T. Wilson.

The newcomers are Steve Highlander, who finished first in a field of five candidates to represent Ooltewah’s District 9, and Karitsa Mosley, one of seven candidates on the ballot in District 5, which includes Chattanooga’s urban core.

The three incumbents — David Testerman, Joe Galloway and Greg Martin — all held on to their seats.

“We’ve run a hard race,” said Highlander, 62, who has taught classes such as government and history for 12 years at Ringgold High School after logging 30 years as a Hamilton County teacher.

One of the issues that he plans to champion is increasing the amount of vocational education.

“We need vocational programs,” Highlander said. “We have everyone on the college track. For kids that do not want to go to college, we need to get them job-ready much sooner.”

He also said Hamilton County doesn’t get enough money from the state.

“We have got to get the state to give us our fair share,” Highlander said. “We’re getting far below what we should be getting.”

Mosley, 33, a social worker, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday night.

She held the lead in District 5 as results came in.

In a previous interview, Mosley said District 5 school challenges include low-performing schools, school safety and a need for adequate funding.

While District 5 had seven candidates on the ballot, only five actively sought the seat.

Cynthia Stanley-Cash announced in July she was suspending her campaign because the field was too crowded and she didn’t want to cause disunity in the community.

And candidate Richard Bennett, who was a key player in Mayor Andy Berke’s Violence Reduction Initiative, dropped out of the picture. In a July 6 arrest, he was caught with pants unzipped in a minivan with a woman who was not his wife. Bennett had hydrocodone pills, a plastic bag of marijuana, two open beers and a bottle of tequila, police said.

Incumbents prevail

The incumbent with the biggest margin of victory was David Testerman, who won his second term representing East Ridge’s District 8.

He said he campaigned hard.

“My son, it was his birthday, he rode around with me in my truck. We straightened up signs and knocked on doors,” Testerman said.

One of Testerman’s goals is to get a new building for the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, a magnet school on East Brainerd Road in his district.

“I would really like to see a new CSLA,” Testerman said. “It’s time for CSLA to be a standalone K-12 school. We could fill it up tomorrow.”

Testerman retired from the Hamilton County Department of Education in 2007 after serving as a teacher and principal for 30 years, including stints at Bachman Elementary School, East Ridge High School, Westview Elementary and White Oak Elementary School.

District 3, in Hixson, saw incumbent Greg Martin beat challenger Jim Watson.

Martin, 50, the family service manager for two cemeteries, was appointed to the school board in March 2012 after Everett Fairchild stepped down.

Achievements he cited during the campaign include giving teachers what he said was a much-needed 3 percent raise, campaigning to build a new Ganns Valley Elementary School and helping secure funding to replace the leaky roof at Loftis Middle School.

Incumbent Joe Galloway in District 6, which includes schools on Lookout Mountain and North Chattanooga, nosed out challengers Oscar Brock and C. Ballard Scearce Jr.

Galloway, 67, worked for 39 years as a teacher, coach and administrator. During his campaign, achievements he cited included coaching the state championship baseball team at Lookout Valley in 1980, winning the Hamilton County Teaching Excellence Award in 2005 and being inducted that year into the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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