Veteran Shelby County Schools Board Commissioner Kevin Woods will continue on as the District 4 representative and seek reelection – a decision prompted by “the current environment.”
Woods has been an SCS board member since the merger of the old Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools systems. Earlier, he announced he would not seek reelection, citing accomplishments on issues of particular concern to him, family and work commitments.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has changed the state of play.
“I am going to go ahead and stay on, particularly in light of everything going on with COVID-19,” Woods told The New Tri-State Defender Monday evening. With uncertainty about funding and associated elements, a “continuation of leadership” is a good thing, he said.
In a formal statement, Woods framed the situation this way. “After careful consideration and conversations with my family, community members and friends, I decided to seek reelection to the Shelby County Schools Board.
“These are extraordinary times and the health and well-being of our education systems are at stake. I owe it to District 4, family, employees, as well as my fellow board members to continue to help work through these difficult challenges.”
COVID-19 forced SCS Supt. Joris Ray and the board to start the spring break a day earlier and extend it beyond a week. Ray subsequently announced that district schools would remain shut deep into April as part of the local effort to slow the virus’ spread.
District 4 in South Memphis is one of five school board positions (along with districts 2,3,5 and 7)on the Aug. 6 election ballot. Three of those incumbents already have said they would seek reelection and a fourth had not yet announced as of Monday evening.
Thursday (April 2) is the deadline for those seeking to run to turn in 25 signatures from voters registered in their districts. Early voting is set for July 17 through Aug. 1. Several people already had indicated that they planned to seek the District 4 seat.
“A number of the candidates are planning to get behind me, support me,” said Woods, who is BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s Memphis market president.
Among them is Allison J. Fouché, deputy chief communications officer for the City of Memphis. She said Woods reached out to her after being nudged by several people in the community to stay on in light of the pandemic and its repercussions.
“He reached out to me and told me what was going on. … Folks are familiar with Kevin in this district. He’s an elder statesman on the board. He knows what that budget looks like. To provide some stability on the board, I think it makes sense,” said Fouché.
Others planning to run also are pulling out of the District 4 race to support Woods, she said.
“We’re in uncertain times. We’ve never gone through this before,” said Fouché, noting that her decision was in keeping with the unprecedented public health emergency.
“If it was just somebody saying ‘I’m not going to run’ and then coming back in, and this (the pandemic) was not happening, well, of course I would have thought it was just somebody going back and forth.”
Fouché, counting herself as a dedicated public servant, said she definitely desired to represent District 4.
“There will be another time for that,” she said, expressing concern about the school time children are missing and the mental health stress they and seniors in particular are confronted with by COVID-19.
Joann Massey, the City of Memphis’ director of Business Diversity & Compliance, had also pulled a petition to run in District 4. She, too, has decided to support Woods.
“We weren’t here three weeks ago when I pulled the petition, got the signatures and submitted it,” said Massey.
“I will continue to be an advocate for quality education in our community and an active volunteer,” she said, noting that her primary focus will remain on small businesses and helping them through the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“District 4 is in real good hands with Kevin Woods. My campaign team that I formed, as well as my donors, I am asking them all, publicly, to support Kevin in another term.”
A key to helping the district’s residents through the pandemic will be collaboration between those dedicated to doing so, she said.
School board commissioners, who are paid $25,000 annually, are elected to four-year terms. A former board president, Woods was appointed by the Shelby County Commission in 2011, winning election in 2012 and reelection four years later.
Woods said much good work has been done already by school officials in response to the viral threat, with even more to be done regarding poverty reflections such as food insecurity.
He also voiced a commitment to making sure students have 21st century facilities, “so that we can be better able to serve them in times like this.”