City: Frogge, Gentry, Kim, Pinkston, Speering come out on top in school board races

Friday, August 3, 2012 at 2:23am

Metro school board chair Gracie Porter lost to a charter school favorite, a board veteran’s win-streak ended and Amy Frogge overcame a 5-to-1 financial disadvantage to cruise to victory as Thursday’s elections produced four new faces on the nine-member school board.

Porter, a staple on the school board since 2006, lost by more than 200 votes to Elissa Kim, a Teach for America executive who mounted a sizeable $84,000 campaign war chest and garnered a flock of charter supporters in her race for District 5. Kim won by a count of 1,754 to Porter’s 1,518.

Ed Kindall, the board’s longest-serving board member, whose tenure dates back 27 years, finished second in a battle of incumbents, losing to one-term board member Sharon Gentry in District 1 by a count of 3,753 to 3,166.

Yet the most striking showing Thursday belonged to West Nashville’s Frogge, an attorney and political-unknown three months ago, who used momentum from an army of public school parents to crush Margaret Dolan, whose campaign haul of $113,000 was the largest ever for a Metro school board race. Frogge raised some $20,000.

Dolan had the support of Mayor Karl Dean and interest groups ranging from the Nashville Area of Chamber of Commerce to the local teachers union. She aired television ads, a rarity for local races. But none of it mattered. Frogge, the lone public school parent in her race, thumped Dolan by a 2-to-1 margin, 3,524 votes to Dolan’s 1,725.

“My message resonated with a lot of parents,” Frogge told The City Paper, crediting the decisiveness of the win to simple hard work. “It’s important we have someone who is a voice for parents in the schools — a positive voice. There’s a lot of negative things going on in our schools, but there’s also a lot of great things”

Frogge is now set to replace board member Kay Simmons, who opted against running for another term.

Rounding out results Thursday — which capped off an election that attracted more money and chatter than any Metro school board race in recent memory — retired teacher Jill Speering won in District 3 and former Gov. Phil Bredesen aide Will Pinkston easily defeated his two opponents in District 7.

Director of School Jesse Register told The City Paper he was watching returns but declined to comment until results were certified.

Kim fended off two other opponents and the power of incumbency in defeating Porter, who became the target of the local support staff union on one end and charter school advocates on the other.

“The overwhelming feeling I have is of gratitude,” Kim said, adding that the school district has some serious challenges ahead of it.

In recent weeks, media drew attention to Kim’s previous votes in Republican primaries and her out-of-state fundraising, which accounted for one-third of her dollars. Kim called such narratives “distractions” in a recent campaign mailer and ultimately used a strong contingency of avid backers to help claim victory.

“We knew going in that we had to get the word out,” Kim said. “Money helps. But nothing can replace the ground game. We knocked on 10,000 doors. We wrote thousands of post cards. We sent out lots of mail.”

Porter did not return a message from The City Paper seeking comment.

Porter’s loss, coupled with either outcome in the Kindall-Gentry race, means a board that currently has five black members, will soon have three.

“It was possibly a difficult choice for a lot of people,” Gentry said of her race, adding she believes the board has made considerable progress during her short tenure. “I’m glad it turned out the way it did.”

Kindall tipped his cap to the chamber-backed Gentry but also gave credit to her husband Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, a former Metro vice mayor whose name carries enormous clout in North Nashville.

“I’m not complaining, she ran a good race,” Kindall said. “Well, Howard ran a good race. I’ll put it like that. They had the five black councilmen in their corner. And as I understand, [former Tennessee Titans running back] Eddie George put out a robo-call for them.”

Piquing interesting in this year’s school board election was the rise of charter schools, particularly Great Hearts Academies, a proposal rejected twice by the local school board, but later overturned by the Tennessee Board of Education.

An affluent group of charter supporters created a PAC dubbed Great Public Schools with the specific purpose of funneling money to pro-charter candidates. The PAC gave $2,500 to Gentry and the maximum $7,100 contributions to Dolan, Kim and District 3 candidate Jarod DeLozier. In the end, the group got two of four of their preferred outcomes.

DeLozier came in third to Free Lee and Speering, a retired teacher of 35 years who scored big in the Madison area. She will replace Mark North, who opted not to seek re-election. Speering took home 1,564 votes to Lee’s 1,427 and DeLozier’s 1,328.

“It was a grassroots effort — people talking to people,” Speering said. “The people of District 3 wanted an experienced educator.”

In the District 9 race, Pinkston, a former Bredesen aide, used a sizeable fundraising haul of $63,000 to help him with a huge win over two opponents. Pinkston collected 2,256 votes, nearly double the total of second-place finisher Al Wilkins.

“The next school board has a tremendous set of opportunities and challenges in front of it,” Pinkston said. “Probably one of the biggest conversations that needs to be played out on a community-wide basis is where we go with charter schools in the future.”

Dolan, who used contacts from service on various nonprofit boards to help build her unprecedented fundraising total, said she’s “at peace” with her campaign and looks forward to working with Frogge. “I’m still committed to the cause. I’m just not going to be sitting at the school board table.”

As for Frogge, the new District 9 winner said she believes people “want a sense of community in their schools” as she discussed her victory. “I hope I can facilitate that. I want to be an advocate for public education.”

Results in the Davidson County judicial races are as follows:

• Rachel Bell trounced Mike Rowan in the race for Davidson County General Sessions Judge, receiving 65 percent of the vote. In a heavily democratic county, Bell's victory was almost a foregone conclusion after she upset sitting judge Mike Jameson in the spring primary.

• Phillip Robinson easily won re-election to the county circuit court judgeship he was appointed to in February by Gov. Bill Haslam. Robinson, who replaced a retiring Barbara Haynes, received 72 percent of the vote.

For a complete list of winners in Davidson County, click here.

18 Comments on this post:

By: murdog on 8/3/12 at 1:29

As a 44 year old man I can believe that I am going to say this, but when I got a call tonight when I think barely 20 something percent of the votes were in and the voice on the other end said, "Its all over already, Amy is going to win." I was literally giddy as a school girl, screaming and fist pumping in my living room, which I know was a hell of a sight for my Jack Russell. Everybody knew in their heart that Amy was the only candidate for the job for so many reasons, but the obvious one that couldn't be countered was she was an involved and caring mother of children in a public school. No one else could say that and it proved to be the fact that mattered in the end. Never mind the fact that she walked door to door in the hot sun, day after day, with a smile, a handshake, and always a willingness to stop, visit and listen for everyone she met. As a result Nashville's public school children are the real winners tonight.

By: ChrisMoth on 8/3/12 at 5:33

It would be VERY helpful to Nashville if Governor Haslam would just go ahead and fill our Board seats TODAY with the people he needs to install his stunning and brilliant vision of Hume-Fogg/Great-Hearts quality-through-segregation throughout Nashville.

We will never have quality like Hume-Fogg/Great Hearts throughout Nashville until we send our sub-Proficient Free-and-reduced children to State-run Charter schools in the core of the city. We need to get started - NOW.

Governor Haslam: Please don't let us foolishly waste our time with campaigning, contributions, advertisements, hand-shaking, voting, celebrating Amy Frogge, local Board Meetings, analyzing charter applications, etc. We are fools to do any of these things, because you are going to override our big decisions with your appointed State Board of Education, anyhow. Nashville should use its energies, instead, to move your vision forwatd. We must start redirecting our sub-Proficient free-and-reduced lunch children to your inner city charter schools. That will create several Hume-Fogg/Great Hearts like schools in our Perimeter (ACT=26) immediately. That's the quality Nashville needs, right? Just like Great Hearts...

I live in Green Hills - and we wil soon have ten "quality" (ACT=26 average) State-mandated Charter Schools serving affluent families like mine to open within 2 miles of the Green Hills mall. Thanks, I guess - that seemed a little crazy to me, at first. Last night, I finally had the needed epihany: $25,000,000 dollars per year is not a lot of money to most of us in Belle Meade and Green Hills - but it IS a lot of money to Charter Operators from out-of-state.

C'mon Governor Haslam - please save us the time. Appoint the right luminaries to our local School Board - right NOW. Don't make fools of us in Nashville by letting us engage in silly civic discourse about what "quality" means to us. You have all the answers - and we are very grateful for that! You've won - please don't rub it in.

Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr

By: Specter47 on 8/3/12 at 5:42

Joey Garrison has got to be pleased today! So much new fodder for his cannon! Just think, Karl Marx Dean and MNEA favorite Margaret Dolan loses! And oh, my, only 3 black school board members! What horror! Go get 'em, Joey!

By: ChrisMoth on 8/3/12 at 5:54

I love Joey's writing - but yes - he would do well to just let the "State beat" reporter cover Nashville schools. Our Board is now just a puppett show for Governor Haslam. Seems pointless to serve when the State makes all the calls anyway - but I guess "2012-2017 Nashville School Board gig" will pad a few resumes helpfully.

Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr

By: westisbest on 8/3/12 at 6:36

First I want to say thanks to the City Paper for giving such great coverage on this topic. Second, this school board has got mountains to climb to improve this school system and I hope they do it.

By: PKVol on 8/3/12 at 7:55

Those who want to lament the involvment of the NRA in the State 45th District should also lament the involment of the SEIU in the School board 5th District. To spend nearly $48 per vote for a school board seat is ridiculous until you consider that Dolan spent $65.50 for each of her losing votes - and with the endorsement of the Mayor - could this have been a mini-referendum on his recent tax increase?

By: govskeptic on 8/3/12 at 8:44

SEIU looses another Metro race on the school board to former Bredesen aide.
Keep those Endorsements coming, it certainly helps the electorate decide.

By: CitizensWin on 8/3/12 at 9:42

Amy Frogge deserved to trounce Dean & Dolan. But this is a canary in a coal mine election. Thanks to Citizens United, our local school board elections have been flushed with out of state PAC money looking to privatize public education, county by county, district by district, and state by state. Watch out.

Today, through shear grit and determination we landed on a 50/50 split. And this is just the beginning. On the next election cycle, the money will be back, the republicans will be back and democrats like Dean will continue their wolves in sheep clothing dance with the chamber. The chamber is dominated by republicans all to eager to put their republican hands on government contracts.

The Mayors office had no business sticking it's collective nose into this school board election. For a gang that can't keep a library open on Mondays, there always seems to be enough metro money for PR firms, consultants, studies and in-house advocates to push the charters and convention centers. Dean's one-upmanship move of throwing his weight into the Great Hearts debacle to overturn our school boards decision is nothing short of voter betrayal.

As a democrat Dean disappoints. As a bullhorn for republican values, he shimmers like crystal at the country club.

Tweet Tweet

By: ChrisMoth on 8/3/12 at 11:31

Citizen's Win: You complain quite eloquently - and I'd love to meet you. But, you never give a vision for what _should_ happen. Clearly the Mayor, the silent city council, churches, everyone else ... has a very real point that lots of families are upset to not get into Hume Fogg lottery (and soon they'll be upset to not get into Great Hearts lottery).

We've spent 30 years telling them this Hillsboro is good because those familes can easily get 30s ACT score with the programs there - but most people want to send their kids to an ACT=26 average school in our cluster. Hume-Fogg is flooded with 25% Hillsboro cluster students. Imagine if they could come to their local school and get the SAME services? Think of hte traffic! Think of lottery slots freed for other kids to get into Hume Fogg finally.

Don't you agree that we could convert Hillsboro and Hillwood to reverse magnet schools overnight. Students scoring subProficient could be lotteried into the new wave of Charter schools in central Nashville. Don't you agree that our zoned schools are failing children in poverty - right? or?

We must get our heads out of ludicrous 1960s thinking on race - and we need to start talking abuot poverty, which is a very real, and very different problem. Lost of wealthy African American familes go to private school in Nashville. Jerry Maynard does!

When we finally make that paradigm shift, that leaves teachers in our area zoned schools with a more humanly tractable task of reaching a different set of learners (like at Hume Fogg and Great Hearts). If Percy Priest is any indication, nearby private schools will empty, and our zoned schools will burst at the seams when we make this shift. Why will Townes Duncan not endorse the idea? Why not you? Drop me a line

We can complain all we want - but until we deliver a cogent vision for all of Nashville and DEMAND IT NOW, we are spitting in the wind. I believe I have a workable plan. Hillsboro and Hillwood are perfect test cases.

If we do NOT do something, there will be 20 State-mandated charters within 2 miles of the Green Hills mall by 2015. That's crazy. Hillsboro High will be emptied and the ACT average will plummet to 14. IB/AP programs will have to be cancelled.

I just want my kids to go to school, ya know?

What is YOUR vision? It's time for everyone in Nashville to give it up for our kids! Where are we going?


Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr

By: Specter47 on 8/3/12 at 11:33

Wow, CW...where do you live? Dean the Democrat is anything but a bullhorn for the Republicans. If he is, then I suspect Republicans are surprised, especially since he is out campaigning for Obummer and Moochelle. What am I missing...hmmm?

By: ChrisMoth on 8/3/12 at 11:47

Specter47: Exactly - Dean the Democrat and Haslam the Republican are quite different - but see eye to eye on the issue of school segregation. They starnd ready and willing to segregate our schools by academic achievement levels and poverty - and the State board of Education has clearly given us a score target (ACT=26) and a diversity target (15% Free and Reduced Lunch - screened by academic proficiency or transportation). That's what their ruling gave us. If that is best for our free and reduced lunch kids, why are we standing in their way?.

Let's give it a try. All I've been saying is that we _know_ how to build Hume Foggs already. We don't need to be sending $25,000,000 a year to Arizona for them to create another Hume Fogg. We can do that ourselves.

And, the Federal Courts gave us a clear green light to do it. Poverty and test scores are the only remaining issue in 2012 - not race.

Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr

By: ChrisMoth on 8/3/12 at 11:59

OK - Townes Duncan has been leading our Ciy down the Charter Path with SuccessPAC. I really believed until just now that this might be good for kids in poerty. when I read these kinds of articles thogh, I start to question the whole enchilada.

Nashvllle: Are we sure segregation is best for kids? Are we sure Charters are the way to do it? It's a lot of kids - and we need to be SURE.

Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr

By: Trumpet on 8/3/12 at 3:29

Joe/The Collection:

Testing...1-2-3. Avon...Avon this microphone working?


By: CitizensWin on 8/3/12 at 3:46

SouthComm president Townes Ducan: Public schools leadership controlled by “forces of darkness”

"Prominent charter school advocate Townes Duncan, who is the president of the board of directors for SouthComm, which owns the Nashville Scene and the Nashville City Paper, said the leadership of the city’s public schools is controlled by “forces of darkness” in an emotional email to friends and fellow charter supporters last week."

And I thought the Tennessean was biased, Jeez, The City Paper itself is trying to buy elections and privatize public education. What a bunch of losers

By: Nitzche on 8/3/12 at 4:54

Amy Frogge is promising ALL the MNPS schrool children daze goins to SMU just like elite liberals

By: govskeptic on 8/6/12 at 8:24

Don't ever be surprised at anything or anyone the Press in this City
decides to present as "Their" candidate to we the unwashed!

By: Specter47 on 8/7/12 at 9:39

Mr. Moth... The school district is already sending huge sums of money out of state for so-called, "school improvement" support. A contract for several million already goes to Britain as we borrow one of their so-called experts. Jesse Register keeps trying all kinds of different approaches to give the impression of making an effort to improve the schools. But he does not want competition, especially in the form of charter schools, and most especially those with such great records as Great Hearts. Their autonomy and independence of his (and Alan Coverstone's) authority drives him crazy. I support Great Hearts and their efforts, giving all children an opportunity, even those from wealthier families.

By: pswindle on 8/7/12 at 5:25

Charter Schools have been started off and on for many years. They all leave with public money in thier pockets and the kids are left out in the cold. If the Charter Schools were not making tons of money they would not be here in the stupid south raking in the money at the expense of the children.