Knox County Board of Training candidates meet with group forward of major election

The election will be partisan for the first time, after Tennessee lawmakers passed a special session bill allowing candidates to run with political parties.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill during a special session of Congress that allows for partisan elections for Board of Education positions, candidates met with the community in Knox County.

Five board seats are up for grabs in the county, and the Knox County League of Women’s Voters sponsored a candidate forum where they spoke about how they would approach issues. Early voting for the primary race is underway and Election Day will be on May 3.

Primary candidates are competing in Districts 1, 4, 6, 7 and 9. All candidates were invited said the forum’s moderator. The candidates that participated in the forum are listed below.

  • John Butler (D) – 1st District: He said that he served in many capacities in a variety of faith groups and in community organizations. He also said that he wanted to serve as an advocate and leader for the first district.
  • Charles Fraiser (D) – 1st District: He said he was educated in Knox County and his grandfather was a teacher. He also said that he worked with educational television for 25 years. He also said he consulted with Knox County Schools on the structure of buildings and classrooms.
  • Breonna Halloway (Independent) – 1st District: She said that she is a mother of five children, four of whom are in Knox County Schools. She is a graduate of Austin-East Magnet High School and received a master’s degree and has a Ph.D. and JD She has also served on several youth boards and non-profit groups. She said her focus would be in community relations and school safety.
  • Reginald Jackson (Independent) – 1st District: He said has spoken with teachers, principals and teachers on a daily basis. His platform focuses on helping students develop trade skills, school security and improving reading programs for kids.
  • Will Edwards (R) – 4th District: He is a father of two children in Knox County Schools and said he works as an attorney focusing on transactional and tax law. He said he wanted to improve the ways students’ unique needs are met, inspired by his own children.
  • Katherine Bike (D) – 4th District: She is a mother of two children in Knox County Schools who also mentors young girls in a mountain biking organization.
  • Phillip Michael Sherman (Independent) – 6th District: He said he believes the county is in a period of large-scale transition. His background is in higher education, serving on the faculty of Maryville College as a professor of religious studies. He is also the father of three children in Knox County Schools.
  • Dominique Oakley (Independent) – 7th District: She said she is a fourth-generation Knoxville educator. She said she would “never bring politics or religion into my classroom as a social studies teacher,” which influenced her decision to run as an independent candidate. She said she is a mother of three children, two of whom are in Knox County Schools.
  • Annabel Henley (D) – 9th District: She is a former teacher and a mother of five children, and works as the director of women’s health in the Knox County Health Department. She said during the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to move into a collaborative role between many agencies across the community and said she thought those skills could help her serve on the board.

The Tennessee bill making school board elections partisan was introduced by Lt. gov. Rany McNally (R – Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R – Crossville). It would have originally required partisan elections for school board members, but was amended to just allow them instead of mandating them.


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