By Kelli Gauthier
There hardly is an area of Ken Smith's life that is unaffected by the Hamilton County Schools system.
"As a father of public school kids and husband of a public school teacher, and as a small business owner, the decisions that the school board makes affect my life both personally and professionally," he said. "Everything about the school system is important to me."
Mr. Smith, 37, is running against Marty Haynes and incumbent Everett Fairchild for the District 3 seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education.
Although Mr. Smith said Mr. Fairchild has been a good leader during his 16 years on the board, he said the people in District 3 are ready for a change.
"A lot of people are not happy with the school system the way it is, and that hasn't been changing over the years," he said. "The only way to change that is to change who governs the system."
The current school board tends to micromanage school administrators, Mr. Smith said, but he'd like to see the board act more as oversight, "just like any corporate board."
As the owner of episode49, a Web design and development firm, Mr. Smith said he is coming to the nonpartisan school board race as the "entrepreneurial candidate."
"I know how to work with a variety of people and help get the best out of all of those people," he said.
Mr. Smith also wants to see the board set policy that ensures there is a strong leader and principal in every school. Teachers and principals who are ineffective must not be allowed to continue working just because they know the right person, he said.
"It might be a four-year goal, an eight-year goal," he said. "But let's make it a goal."
Parents and community members also need to be encouraged to become more involved in schools, he said.
Erlanger hospital president and CEO Jim Brexler said he was thrilled when he found out that Mr. Smith, whom he considers intelligent and caring, was running.
"Ken is an incredibly dedicated parent and a very thoughtful person," Mr. Brexler said. "He wants to do right by his kids and others, and he gets it. The school board's role is not just to tightly hold the administrators and be little soundbites, but to be supportive of the school system."
Mike Griffin, a senior vice president at First Tennessee Bank, got to know Mr. Smith while the candidate was involved in Leadership Chattanooga, and now is serving as treasurer of his campaign.
* Age: 37
* Family: Wife, Cinnamon; daughter, Raven, 11; son, Slate, 3
* Occupation: Owns episode49, a Web design and development firm
"Just being around Ken, he just has a heart for the community," Mr. Griffin said.
Mr. Smith said he believes passionately that the race is the most important election in the community.
"Everything about our children's education affects our economy. The singular thing that holds us together is the public school system," he said.
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