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Staff file photo / "I Voted" stickers adorn a ballot stub box.

Already, we have seven decided school board members: Rhonda Thurman, District 1; Marco Perez, District 2; Tiffanie Robinson, District 4; Joe Wingate, District 7 — who were not up for election this term — and Gary Kuehn, District 9, who won in May and has no Democratic opposition in the Aug. 4 general election.

Here are the Times page endorsements for the remaining seats:

In District 3 , Jenn Piroth:

Social and emotional learning got a bit twisted up with talk of bullying when Jenn Piroth, 43, a mother of four and a full-time nationally certified American Sign Language Interpreter and Democrat debated with Republican incumbent Joe Smith, 68.

Smith, the retired founder and director of YCAP and now executive director of Prison Prevention Ministries, said in order for the district to address bullying, all teachers and administrators need to be following the code of conduct, but they aren't.

Piroth, who also has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in mental health counseling, emphasized a need to teach children about how to talk about their feelings.

"I think we need to focus on maybe getting some more mental health professionals," Piroth said. "I also want to see us focusing on citizenship awards more than things like perfect attendance."

On the issue of equity, Piroth used a subject she knows well as an example.

"(Deaf) kids would need more funding than kids who can hear in general," she said. "There is a big difference between equity and fairness. Fairness is when we give everyone the same thing. Every kid gets a lollipop. And equity is when every kid gets what they need."

Smith, who has served on the board for six years under the state's outgoing funding model, and also is the father of two grown children and 19 foster children, said he hopes the new formula will help close some of the existing gaps.

But using the example of his own family, he noted that having foster children some years meant van rides to and from six different schools. The children's behavior always changed, he said, no matter the school. The consistent factor was home.

The winner will represent the communities of Big Ridge Elementary, DuPont Elementary, Hixson Elementary, Hixson High, Hixson Middle, Loftis Middle, McConnell Elementary and Middle Valley Elementary.

In District 5, Karitsa Mosley Jones:

There seem to be few differences of opinion between incumbent Karitsa Mosley Jones, 40, a social worker and Democrat, and 68-year-old Republican attorney Charles Paty — other than the bombshell question he threw at her at the end of a recent debate when he accused Jones, who is Black, of being racist against white people.

"There have been some online content that I have found disturbing on the part of my opponent," said Paty, who is white, referencing Jones' podcast "Pearls of Blackness," where she has referenced white privilege.

"In talking with people, they were concerned that my opponent, Mrs. Jones, was dealing in a form of racism against white people. And I felt like that was inappropriate that as an elected official, and as anybody, that cannot be tolerated."

Jones said her podcast is an exercise of her First Amendment right to free speech. (It's also not connected with the school system, and the system does not teach critical race theory.)

"The people of District 5 know me," Jones said. "Whether they're red, white, blue, yellow, green or mixed colors, they know that I'm going to stand with them. They know that I stand for equity and diversity and that I stand for equitable access to education."

The winner will represent communities of 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.

In District 6, Ben Connor:

Democrat Ben Conner, a 40-year-old father of four daughters, and Republican Jon Baker, 74, agreed on almost nothing in their campaign — especially politics.

Baker, who said he recently retired here, lashed out at the school system for not hiring enough school resource officers, clearly not paying close enough attention to know that even during his campaign, the system did fund safety officers, as did the Hamilton County Commission.

Baker, identifying himself as a conservative Christian, railed that the Democratic Party is a "party of abortion and grooming." Connor countered he didn't need "a tagline" on the ballot "to tell me how to listen" to teachers and other parents about school issues.

Conner says the schools need more counselors and the county needs to take a stronger role in early childhood education. Baker says schools have plenty of counselors and with the schools already "failing K-12, giving the system babies is not a good idea."

The winner will represent the communities of Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, Dawn School, Lookout Mountain Elementary, Lookout Valley Elementary, Lookout Valley Middle High, Normal Park Museum Magnet, Tommie F. Brown International Academy.

In District 8, Katie Perkins:

The very conservative Larry Grohn, a former Chattanooga councilman and retired teacher, threw his own bullying gauntlet on the table for his school board opponent Katie Perkins: "Who are you? Where do you stand?" Where do you stand on critical race theory" and other issues.

Perkins countered: "I refuse to be distracted about talk of theories that are not even taught in our county schools."

In return, she asked if he agreed with Hamilton County's equality policy that states every student shall have access to an excellent education regardless of their circumstances, ZIP code, gender or race "since you've stated you want to dismantle the office of equity."

Of course, he said, but he claimed extra money spent at some low- performing schools didn't result in better scores. "Do I believe that our school district needs an office of equity? No, I do not," Grohn said. "I think that is an unconscionable growth of the central office administration."

The winner will represent the communities of East Ridge elementary, middle and high schools, as well as Spring Creek Elementary.

In District 10, Jeff Crim:

Among three candidates for this seat only one is a keeper — Jeff Crim, 48-year-old husband, father and pastor of First Ascension Lutheran Church, co-founder of the East Ridge Community Food Pantry and a council vice president with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.

He says: "No one wakes up saying 'I want to be a bully today.' Bullying happens because a student's pain and trauma are coming out sideways, and they take it out on their peers." One fix, he adds, is the often vilified "social and emotional learning" that helps students work through their pain, "but we take it out of curriculum and then we're left only with step three — discipline."

Crim, a Democrat, is a huge fan of our Future Ready Institutes but believes we must provide transportation for them and make them well known enough for full access.

His challengers are Republican Faye Robinson, a retired insurance agent and insurance company co-owner, and independent Christine Essex, a paralegal and mother of three who says she's really is a Christian conservative Republican.

Robinson said the schools don't need additional funding, but agreed, "I do think we need to look at what a bullying person is going through and perhaps send something home to the parents. From what I hear there's a lot of homes without parents."

Essex, who said she wasn't familiar with the system's Future Ready Institutes, agreed that schools don't need more funding (tax money). "I just think we need to find money," she said.

The winner will represent the communities of Ooltewah elementary, high, and middle schools, as well as Wolftever Creek Elementary.

In District 11, Jill Black:

Jill Black, 43, a Lookout Mountain social worker with two children in public schools is the best pick. Her passion is equity and finding the balance among the things we teach and the things we ought to teach.

A Democrat, she has worked for the local chapter of Stand for Children to advocate for improvements to the public education system, the City of Chattanooga's Neighborhood Services and Community Development, as a PATH trainer teaching foster parents and as a case manager for the CHOICES program under TennCare.

One of her challengers is independent Steve McKinney, 66, a substitute teacher, father and grandfather, who believes parents and teachers often aren't as listened to by school officials as they should be.

Another opponent is Republican Virginia Anne Manson, 62, of Lookout Mountain, whose campaign manager has acknowledged that she attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington but left before it got out of hand. Manson did not participate in a recent Times Free Press, Local 3 and Chattanooga 2.0 school board debate.

The winner will represent the communities of Battle Academy for Teaching and Learning, Clifton Hills Elementary, Calvin Donaldson 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 Elementary and Lookout Valley Middle/High.

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