Five candidates, including one-term incumbent Ron George, are seeking two seats up for grabs in the election. Challengers are second-time candidate John Hall and newcomers Susan Bishop, Cheryl Harvey and Carrie Upshaw.
Incumbent Pat Turner is not seeking re-election to another four-year term.
The relatively low-profile race has included forums provided by the Kingsport Republican Women, Dobyns-Bennett High School Junior Statesmen, Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club, as well as biographies and questions and answers published in the Kingsport Times-News.
Whoever is elected will come in the middle of a time when the school board is seeking $1.71 million in new funding from the city but is in line to receive only $800,000, based on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s draft budget for 2009-10.
Bishop has called for some additional funding but a “reasonable” amount, while George said more money is needed to keep elementary Spanish and avoid losses such as the elimination of literacy coaches last year.
Hall emphasized the use of technology and working with systems serving adjoining Sullivan and Hawkins counties and said increases should come only after a thorough examination of the budget, while Harvey said funding education should be a top priority for the city, and Upshaw called for prudent and responsible funding requests, adding that taxpayers should be willing to pay extra “if necessary” for specific school system needs.
In their general campaigns:
• Bishop, who retired last year after 15 years with the school system on the support staff at Washington Elementary, emphasizes her time working for the school as giving her an insight into the system. She also has attended school board meetings.
Bishop, 61, received the Distinguished Educator Program Award in 2005 from the Tennessee Education Association as the Educational Support Professional of the Year. In 2006, she was nominated by the Tennessee Education Association for the National ESP of the Year Award.
• George, a systems analyst for the parent company of Food City, emphasizes his four years on the board and activities in the Tennessee School Boards Association. He said the school system’s performance is reflected by students from Dobyns-Bennett High School heading to Yale, Harvard MIT and other prestigious colleges.
George, 49 and a native of Portales, N.M., was elected to the BOE in May 2005. He is an honors graduate of Eastern New Mexico University. George is a systems analyst with K-VA-T Foods Inc. George has achieved Level Two Boardsmanship with the Tennessee School Boards Association.
• Hall, a retired trauma surgeon, maintains that having children in the school system is essential to being a board member. Hall has children in the system, while George has a senior about to graduate and one already graduated, Bishop’s children have already graduated, Harvey has one child about to graduate and one already graduated, and Upshaw has a senior about to graduate and another child still in the system.
Hall, 57, graduated from Stanford University with degrees in biology and chemistry in 1974 and then from the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine. He finished his surgical training with a fellowship in trauma and critical care at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center and pediatric trauma from Johns Hopkins University. Hall has spent 25 years in academic medicine progressing to the rank of full professor of surgery at the Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City.
• Harvey, director of workforce development for Eastman Chemical Co., said her work at Eastman and with the Tennessee-Virginia Scholars program Eastman sponsors makes her keenly award of educational needs and demands facing students. She also has attended school board meetings.
Harvey, 52, earned a bachelor’s of science degree in business from Virginia Tech in 1978. She went to work at Eastman in 1978, left in the mid- to late-1980s to raise children, substitute teach in Sullivan County schools and operate a small decorating business before returning to Eastman full time in 1992.
• Upshaw, a volunteer in school and church programs, emphasizes her experience as a volunteer in her children’s school and activities in the PTSA at those schools. She also has regularly attended BOE meetings.
Upshaw, 45, graduated from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville in 1985 with a bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering after graduating from Sullivan East High School, near Bluff City, in 1981. She resigned as a chemical engineer at Eastman in 1990 to spend time volunteering and raising her children.
No single issue has dominated the race, although among issues that have split the group is whether Kingsport schools should consider a year-round calendar at the elementary level as an idea, among other things, to help lessen remediation needs.
That calendar, at use in two Johnson City elementary schools, has a shorter summer break and longer fall and spring breaks.
Bishop said elementary calendar changes would impact people with children at the elementary, middle and/or high school levels.
George said the idea has been discussed, but the community may not be ready for it.
Hall said longer school days would be a better idea,
Harvey said she supports the idea, something emphasized in her campaign. She said that having a long summer break is an “antiquated” idea left over from the country’s rural farm origins and that a yearlong calendar is a good idea if logistics can be worked out.
Upshaw said the downside would be interference with summer music, academic, sport and other camps.