For more than 20 years, Karen Farrow has worked with children, and for at least half of that time she's wanted to put her experience to use on the Hamilton County Board of Education.
But taking care of her family and working a full-time job as a police officer didn't allow her to fit the position into her schedule -- until now.
"I wanted to do this 10 years ago, but it was just something I knew I could not give it all I had, with the way that my life was going," said the 44-year-old mother of two, who is running for 9th District school board seat that Chester Banks is leaving to run for a County Commission seat.
District 9 includes 11 schools in the Ooltewah area.
* Age: 49
* Family: Husband, Michael, 46; stepson, Brandon, 23; stepdaughter, Tabitha, 19
* Occupation: Police sergeant for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Mrs. Farrow, whose children attended Ooltewah High School, said her job as a police officer gives her a unique perspective to bring to the board, if elected.
"Gangs, drugs, alcohol -- I know how all these affect kids," she said.
Mrs. Farrow began her work in schools in 1989, when she was one of the first officers in the area to be placed in a school. She worked at Ooltewah Middle School as a resource officer, though not called that at the time, and eventually became a DARE instructor and child abuse and domestic violence investigator.
When she began substitute teaching in 1996, she started to realize "how bad kids were going without," Mrs. Farrow said. Over the years as she's watched schools unable to afford to buy books and heard stories of children's diminishing spelling capabilities, she thought about what she could do to help change the situation.
"We need to go back to the ABCs and 123s," Mrs. Farrow said. "We're doing them an injustice if we are telling them that computers are going to do all their work for them."
Gary Neil, who worked alongside Mrs. Farrow in the Ooltewah High softball booster club, said he thinks Mrs. Farrow's desire to help the county's children is what makes her a viable candidate for the seat.
"She really does have a desire to get in there and make things better for the kids, and I think that's important," Mr. Neil said. "We've got to do better for the kids in our school system, we've got to make sure teachers are getting what they need, and I truly believe that's Karen's No. 1 priority."
Other candidates for the seat are Timothy Stevenson, Caleb Long, Michael Evatt, Gary Potter and Marchetta Cannon. School board members serve four-year terms. The general election is Aug. 5.
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