Democrat Jill Black has thrown her hat in the ring for the Hamilton County Board of Education's District 11 seat.
The newly created District 11 is comprised of Alton Park, East Lake, Eastside, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Valley, Missionary Ridge, Montague Park and St. Elmo.
"When they drew the new districts, I had left the workforce in July and really felt called to serve my community in this way by running for school board and serving this new, very diverse, really interesting district that's been drawn in District 11," Black said. "It's the most economically and racially diverse district in all of Hamilton County, and I think we have a real opportunity to bring the community together and work for the good of not just District 11, but all of the kids in Hamilton County."
Black said she moved to the Chattanooga area 16 years ago to work for the local chapter of Stand for Children, and in that role, she worked with parents in schools to advocate for early childhood education and improve public education.
Stand for Children Inc. bills itself as is "a unique catalyst for education equity and racial justice, to create a brighter future for us all."
"I've always been a huge supporter of public education," said Black, who has since worked for the city of Chattanooga's Department of Neighborhood Services and taught classes required for foster parents by the state of Tennessee.
For the past decade, Black has served mainly permanently disabled and older adults in the community as a case manager for Tennessee's CHOICES program, she said.
"The lived experience beyond myself I think gives me a unique perspective as a social worker to really understand what some of the children who come through the doors of [Hamilton County] schools are facing," Black said. "They're not just little minds, they're whole little people coming through our doors, and we have to meet them where they are and give them what they need to be successful."
She said COVID-19 brought many already-existing issues in Hamilton County Schools to the surface.
"It's been a time of upheaval and instability and loss for the last two years in schools," said Black, who has two children, a second-grader and a fifth-grader, who attend Battle Academy. "We have a lot to address when it comes to students, not just around their learning, but also their emotional state and their mental state and how they're weathering this pandemic."
The pandemic has also been hard on adults — particularly teachers, who are leaving the field mid-career because their work environment is unsustainable, she said.
"I know that teacher morale is very low and we are losing talent among our educators," Black said. "As a community, it is time to invest in our public schools and provide competitive teacher pay, support in the classrooms for educators, programs that will address the needs of students and meet them where they are, and address the growth in Hamilton County and the needs that have been brought to light with our facilities."
Other candidates who have filed petitions to run for the District 11 school board seat are Republican Virginia Anne Manson and independent Steve McKinney. The primary is May 3, and the general election is Aug. 4.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com or 423-757-6508.