Election Day is Thursday, and the Hamilton County school board race has six candidates vying for three contested seats.
District 1, District 2 and District 7 each have contested elections, while District 4 school board member Tiffanie Robinson is running unopposed for reelection.
In each of the three contested races, there is one candidate endorsed by the conservative Good Government PAC and one endorsed by the teacher's union PAC.
Incumbent Rhonda Thurman is facing a challenge from Stephen Vickers for District 1.
Thurman, first elected to the board in 2004, told the Times Free Press Tuesday she's been committed to District 1 for 16 years "and doesn't see anything about that changing."
She added that two of her top priorities are the district's reopening plans and students' reading levels.
"Reading has always been my top priority ... we have a problem and it's something that we've been working on but we need to continue to tackle," she said.
Vickers said his priorities are communication, school and technology infrastructure along with creating a scholarship.
"I am confident going into Thursday that the great people of District 1 agree that it is time for a change in their school board representation," Vickers said. "Many people agree that we need a school board member that will listen to what our community needs and to be able to accomplish that. We need a fresh perspective and a new set of eyes looking at the issues that District 1 faces. I believe I am the best person to do so."
Thurman is favored by the conservative group, and Vickers by the teacher's union.
The fight for the District 2 seat has been lively, with social media posts about the candidates, accusations regarding the citizenship of one and a billboard that had residents complaining to the District Attorney's Office.
Tom Decosimo and Marco Perez are on the ballot for District 2. They are running for an open seat.
Businessman Decosimo said during a July 13 debate that his priorities are promoting literacy rates, supporting fiscally conservative spending measures and giving teachers and principals more autonomy in decision making.
Recently, his digital billboard sparked controversy with residents. The sign on Signal Mountain Road called him "a Republican for school board District 2" and drew several complaints from citizens because the race is supposed to be nonpartisan.
District Attorney General Neal Pinkston determined the billboard is not in violation of the specific wording of the law calling for nonpartisan campaigns.
Perez, a U.S. citizen since birth, is the candidate whose Costa Rican heritage was the subject of a whisper campaign on social media. He told the Times Free Press Tuesday his priorities include teacher retention and excellent education for all students.
There were flyers distributed recently calling Perez a socialist and saying the advertisement was paid for by teacher's advocacy group Hamilton County United. In a public Facebook post, the nonprofit group denied creating the flyer.
Perez said he and his camp "have remained focused on the needs of students, the concerns of teachers, and our community."
"I feel as if we have done everything possible to let people know who I am and what I stand for. The decision is in the hands of the voters now," Perez told the Times Free Press.
Decosimo is favored by the conservative group, and Perez by the teacher's union.
Chairman and incumbent Joe Wingate is facing opposition from Debbi Meyers in District 7.
During a July 14 debate, while both had similarities in opinions on the district's handling of COVID-19 and the necessity of technology and resources, divisions arose over why they were running for the position.
Wingate expressed his desire to continue with positive changes he said he has helped bring in during his four years on the board, including academic growth and achievement.
Meyers said she found fault in Wingate's governance and is running to better represent the conservative voice of the residents in the county.
Like Perez, Wingate has also been the recipient of negative campaigning. There are signs stating that Wingate wants to increase taxes by 17%. He has not addressed the signage in any of his public campaign social media. Calls to Wingate seeking comment went unanswered on Tuesday.
Meyers is favored by the conservative group, and Wingate by the teacher's union.
Hamilton County school board members are elected for four-year terms.
Contact Monique Brand at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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