Editor’s Note: This opinion is from Clint Cooper, the Chattanooga Free Press’s editorial page editor. Posted with the author’s permission.
District 8 pits incumbent David Testerman, who has 30 years of experience as an educator, against Tucker McClendon, a recent college graduate. It should be a no-brainer but isn’t.
The incumbent, who received our support four years ago, talks a good game. He seeks more arts in the schools, the need to replicate the district’s successful magnet schools, the establishment of Future Ready Institutes in area high schools and more vocational education, all of which we support.
On the board, though, he doesn’t appear to passionately work for what he advocates. He gives thunderous speeches but often winds up voting for whatever the district office suggests. Indeed, he wanted to hire then-interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly in the fall of 2016 and forgo a superintendent search. That would have established the district’s status quo at a time it needed to be shaken up.
McClendon, an assistant market manager for Public Markets Inc., believes as do many that Hamilton County is at an educational turning point.
“We can buy in,” he said, “or do the same thing.”
Like many candidates, McClendon advocates student resource officers in every school, better accountability and transparency, and a better relationship between the board and the commission. He believes the district needs to look “outside the box” at “innovative ways of funding.” Corporate sponsorships of football stadiums and gymnasiums is an example, he says.
For District 8, he believes better communication lines from the board to parents and students are in order. “They don’t feel they have a voice,” he says.
On racial and socioeconomic integration, and equity, McClendon doesn’t claim to have the answers but believes wider community conversations, better use of underutilized schools and strategic open enrollment can help.
In this race, it’s a close call, but we endorse the challenger.
_ Clint Cooper