Republicans gained one seat and Democrats gained two as the Hamilton County school board on Thursday held its first partisan election and grew to 11 seats from nine as a result of the redistricting process after the 2020 census.
The board currently has five Republicans, three independents and one Democrat. After the election, the makeup will be six Republicans, three Democrats and two independents.
In perhaps one of the most heated races, Democrat Jill Black of Lookout Mountain defeated opponents Virginia Anne Manson, R-Lookout Mountain, and independent Steve McKinney of Chattanooga for the District 11 seat. Black will be the first school board member to represent the brand new district.
"I am incredibly honored and flattered and humbled by the fact that all of the residents at District 11 have put their faith in me to represent their children and their schools on the school board," Black said in a phone call.
She said her first order of business is getting to know the other board members to begin developing working relationships.
District 11 includes Alton Park, East Lake, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Valley and St. Elmo communities and the following schools: Battle Academy for Teaching and Learning, Clifton Hills Elementary, Donaldson Calvin Elementary, East Lake Academy of Fine Arts, East Lake Elementary, East Side Elementary, Graduation Success Program, Howard Connect Academy, Howard High School, Lookout Mountain Elementary, Lookout Valley and Lookout Valley Middle/High.
School board candidates campaign and celebrate
Here's how the other districts fared:
Incumbent Republican Joe Smith of Hixson will keep his seat, defeating Democrat challenger Jenn Piroth of Hixson.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Smith said in a phone call. "Even though we've experienced some academic growth, we got a lot of work to do. We just got a lot of work that needs to be done to continue to be able to give our kids in Hamilton County the best educational opportunities that we can give them."
Smith has been serving on the board for nearly six years. In 2016, Hamilton County commissioners selected Smith to replace Greg Martin, who ended his term early after being elected to the commission. Smith reran in 2018 and defeated opponent Miracle Hurley.
He will represent the DuPont, Lakesite, Pleasant Grove, Middle Valley, Valley Brook, Hixson and Northgate areas. District 3 includes Big Ridge Elementary, DuPont Elementary, Hixson Elementary, Hixson High, Hixson Middle, Loftis Middle, McConnell Elementary and Middle Valley Elementary.
Incumbent Democrat Karitsa Mosley Jones of Chattanooga defended her district seat against Republican challenger Charles Paty of Chattanooga.
"I'm very thankful to the people of District 5 for entrusting me with the responsibility yet again, and I look forward to continuing the work," Mosley Jones said in a phone call.
This term, she said, she hopes to continue enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the district.
Mosley Jones was elected vice chairman of the board in 2016. She reran in 2018 and defeated opponent Ann Pierre.
Mosley Jones will represent the airport, Bonny Oaks, Dalewood, Eastgate and Tyner areas, which include the following schools: Barger Academy of Fine Arts, Brainerd High, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, Dalewood Middle, Dawn School, Bess T. Shepherd Elementary, Tyner Academy, Tyner Middle Academy and Woodmore Elementary.
Democrat Ben Connor of Chattanooga beat out GOP opponent Jon Baker, also of Chattanooga, for the District 6 seat.
Connor will represent Lupton City, North Shore, Red Bank, North Chattanooga, Riverview and Stuart Heights neighborhoods. Schools in District 6 include Alpine Crest Elementary, Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, Normal Park Museum Magnet, Normal Park Upper, Red Bank High, Red Bank Middle and Rivermont Elementary.
Republican Larry Grohn of East Ridge defeated Democrat opponent Katie Perkins of Chattanooga. He noted that he won 1,776 votes - a patriotic number.
"I'm a red white and blue guy, and I believe America is the greatest country on the face of the planet," Grohn said in a phone call. "So, that's going to be an interesting concept to bring to the school board."
Grohn said he wanted to focus on raising testing scores.
"I'm just one of 11, but when you look at the numbers of our TCAP scores for the last five years, it's really sad," he said. "So I think that's why I put curriculum matters as my banner."
The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program is the standardized testing program used in Tennessee public schools.
Grohn is a former Chattanooga city councilman. In 2017, he unsuccessfully ran for mayor, losing to then-Mayor Andy Berke. Grohn's campaign failed to file the final financial disclosure paperwork from that effort, which nearly prevented Grohn from running for school board.
Grohn told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in a previous interview that around $17,000 is still missing from that campaign though the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found no criminal wrongdoing and closed the case.
Grohn also has been charged with stealing $710 worth of campaign signs from the Democratic candidate for district attorney, John Allen Brooks. His court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23 in Marion County after Hamilton County's district attorney and judges recused themselves from the case.
Grohn will represent the Brainerd Hills, Concord and East Ridge area, which includes East Ridge elementary, middle and high schools, as well as Spring Creek Elementary.
Voters decided on Republican Gary Kuehn for the District 9 seat during the May primaries. Kuehn, of Ooltewah, defeated incumbent Republican James Walker and Republican Tate Smith of Chattanooga. There were no Democratic challengers in the race.
Kuehn will represent the Birchwood, Hunter, Harrison, Harrison Bay, Wolftever and Meadowview communities including the following schools: Brown Middle; Central High; Harrison Elementary; Harrison Bay Future Ready Center; Hunter Middle; Smith, Wallace A. Elementary; and Snow Hill Elementary.
Republican Faye Robinson of Ooltewah will be the first to represent the newly-established District 10. Robinson beat out opponents Jeff Crim, D-Chattanooga, and independent Christine Essex of Ooltewah.
Robinson will represent Apison, Ooltewah, Silverdale, Collegedale, Summit, Ooltewah, Georgetown and Savannah Bay, including the following schools: Ooltewah Elementary, Ooltewah High, Ooltewah Middle and Wolftever Creek Elementary.
The new board will meet for the first time as an 11-member panel Sept. 15.