HomeOpinionShould JMCSS supporters be concerned with election results?

Should JMCSS supporters be concerned with election results?

By Brandon Shields

Managing editor

Is there a change brewing for the Jackson-Madison County School Board?

Will it be next to impossible in the coming months for Superintendent Marlon King and his leadership staff to do his job?

Is the overall trajectory of the school district about to enter a downward spiral similar to the one Tennessee fans are hopeful Alabama’s football program is about to now that they’ve lost another legendary coach?

While I was doing election commentary on WBFG-FM 96.5 Tuesday night, that seemed to be the rhetoric some of my colleagues on the microphones seemed to be thinking.

And if they were thinking it, it’s possible some of those who support Marlon King and JMCSS might’ve been fearful of the same thing as Election Administrator Lori Lott read off the voting totals Tuesday evening at the Election Commission.

I supposed there’s good reason to be fearful of that.

Sherry Franks was a great parent and advocate for the school system before she was elected to the Board in 2020.

She showed up at Board meetings with at least one child in tow present to know what was going on with her children’s school system, particularly for her youngest that’s in the special education classes.

And now that great parent – that advocate – has six months remaining on the Board before Shane Barnes moves into her seat in District 5.

Down in the south, Brian Ford did a good job marketing himself as the one candidate among the three running for that seat that would support King and his initiatives and that his decades of experience as an educator – mostly in Madison County – could be used for the good of the district if he sat on the Board.

But he couldn’t topple the incumbent, Debbie Gaugh, who has begun voting with conservative Board members Harvey Walden and Marcia Moss in recent months more regularly than she had been, which caused concern for those who noticed that before Moss was appointed to the Board last fall that Walden was typically the “1” in 8-1 votes when King’s initiatives got approved.

So there’s plenty of reason to think the worst when you see that they both lost and there’s potential for three more losses in August in the general elections.

But let’s think about this for a minute.

What’s the worst-case scenario for King in this situation? To be fired? Barnes said on Tuesday after his win he sees no need to fire King. Gaugh has never brought it up. Walden has never brought it up. Neither has Moss.

So what’s the second option on the list of “worsts”? Not firing him, but making his life miserable by telling him no on every thing he wants to do.

Is there any indication that’s about to happen? It’s not obvious if there is.

Barnes wants to improve safety. King told the County Commission nearly a year ago that safety is his No. 1 priority for JMCSS after the tragedy at Covenant Christian School in Nashville when six people were killed in an active shooter situation. So it’s hard for me to envision anything that would make King’s work life miserable there.

Gaugh has already said there’s a bunch of good things happening in the district that she wants to see through, so while she may disagree with King on some things, it doesn’t appear that she’s making life difficult.

Are there any definitive opportunities right now? No.

Anything else on the list after the top two I wouldn’t think is that bad. In fact, No. 3 is probably the scenario where King still accomplishes his goals for the district, but he has to do it in a way that lines up with the majority of the Board’s priorities.

Is that a bad thing? It’s not great, but it’s doable. And with King’s ability to connect with people, I think he’d still get the majority of the district staff to follow along with certain initiatives even if he has to adapt the way he’d go about accomplishing those initiatives.

So let’s go back to the second option.

Hopefully whomever wins the final three elections in August will be able to look back at the Board from 2018-2020 and see that not many people in Madison County want to go back to the days of seeing Board members argue and fight in meetings while their Superintendent looked tired and deflated the way Eric Jones did at times.

Most people who enter school buildings on a halfway regular basis can see that things are trending upward for JMCSS.

Test scores have improved. Gaugh said as much Tuesday night.

Morale is improving on staff. Recruitment and retention of staff is becoming less and less of a chore for the HR department.

Do they want to see the school system improve? If not, it was a really dumb move on their part to run for this particular office.

Do they want to use the same strategies that you or I would use to accomplish that? Maybe not. But sometimes, a football program needs to get out of the I-formation, recruit some wide receivers and a pocket passer quarterback and quicker linemen who can pass block to open up their offense to compete better. And sure, during that process, there are fans in the stands booing the coach because that set of changes doesn’t make sense to them.

But just like Eric Jones and his leadership staff told JMCSS constituents during those rough times – trust the process and see what happens.

The majority of those who showed up to vote made their voices heard, and the same thing will happen in August. If you feel one way or the other about the current state of JMCSS, you’d better find a bunch of people who think like you and get them to vote too.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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