I covered the election finances for the Shelby County School board races on August 7, in addition to issues facing the new suburban areas, as well as day-of election coverage. The samples of this coverage below feature print, data visualization, audio, photo and video. By clicking on each headline you can see the full original articles and their media.
Three years ago, Stephanie Love was working in her beauty salon when a man came in. “Y’all need to come to the Frayser Exchange Club,” he said. “They let you know everything that’s going on in Frayser.”
This was three years ago, before she had become actively involved in her church, before she had become a leader in her neighborhood and before she had just recently won a seat on the board for Shelby County Schools, the largest school district in the state, which serves more than 100,000 students….. Read more
August 7, 2014
Live-blogging the Shelby County Schools board election
8:40 – Waiting for results:
Take a moment to listen to voters in Frayser reflect about why they voted today. The voices in these interviews are Denita Harvey, Shaqwendalyn Barrett, Jerry and Mary Humphreys, Janell Simpson, Joyce Connor, Janice Stewart, and Renae Manning.
August 7, 2014
Four minute summary of school board election, audio piece
The Shelby County school board is adding two new seats this year, increasing in size from seven members to nine. This is in part to give more representation to areas outside of Memphis that are not part of any of the six new suburban school districts.
This year, somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 students are expected to attend Shelby County Schools from unincorporated areas—areas that are within Shelby County, but not part of a city or town. Candidates say students and parents in these suburban and rural areas have different concerns and preferences than the Memphis residents who make up the majority of the district.
The preponderance of these parents will vote in Districts 3 and 5. Chalkbeat reached out to the school board candidates from Districts 3 and 5 to discuss the concerns of suburban and rural Shelby County Schools voters. Interviews with each candidate that responded are presented below, edited for length and clarity…. Read More
In the final month of their campaigns, Shelby County School board candidates spent thousands of dollars on signs, mailings and consultants and continued to draw thousands of dollars in new contributions, according to the Shelby County Election Commission.
The race is likely to upend the entire school board with five of the seven seats up for grabs…..Read more here
The Shelby County Election Commission officials say they have not uploaded more than 100 financial forms from Shelby County political candidates, more than a week after they were turned in. That includes five school board candidates. The financial forms detail who has donated to the candidates’ campaign and how much money candidates have raised.
The Shelby County Schools board race is hotly contested because the next slate of board members will have to make high stakes decisions about how to improve failing schools while their revenues are shrinking.
The commission has not made public the financial disclosures for five Shelby County Schools candidates, a week after they were due to be posted. After numerous emails and phone calls, the commission still could not confirm whether the missing candidates did not submit their forms on-time or whether the forms are sitting in its offices somewhere and just have not been made public. Normally, the forms are uploaded within a day, according to its policy.
The candidates whose forms are not available and may have not been submitted on time are Teddy King, David Winston, Jimmy Warren, Miska Bibbs and William Orgel.
If candidates did not submit their financial disclosures by July 10, the commission is supposed to send the delinquent candidates certified letters, giving them five extra days to comply before turning them over to the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance for fines that start at $25 per day and can be as much as $10,000.
But with early voting starting Friday along with staff shortages, Director Richard Holden said that there had not been time to verify all of the candidates’ financial disclosures and send out the certified letters.
“The timing is such that we’re busy. We got more than we can say grace over,” said Holden. “Let’s say you send me a voter registration card that changes your address: clearly that’s a higher priority than sending someone a letter telling us how much money they raised and wasted.”…. Read more here
A group of Memphis business leaders and their spouses have financially fueled the campaigns of Shelby County Schools board candidates Chris Caldwell and Roshun Austin, according to financial documents submitted by both candidates in recent days.
Of the 24 donors Caldwell listed, 18 of them gave the exact same amount of money to Austin. For example on June 16 Charles Burkett, the president of First Tennessee, gave $1,000 to Caldwell and also gave $1,000 to Austin.
Of the $23,950 Caldwell raised and the $23,000 Austin raised, the same 18 donors contributed more than $19,000 to each candidate. They include mostly CEOs and presidents of Memphis-based companies, which are members of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce. The companies include local giants such as Fed Ex and AutoZone, as well as smaller companies such as Baker Donelson and Jordan Enterprises. The Chamber of Commerce’s JOBS Political Action Committee also donated $3,000 to both candidates after an interview process.
The Chamber of Commerce has played a larger role in local politics in recent years. It is currently under fire by police and firemen for the its endorsement of the city’s pension and health care reform plan.
The upcoming school board election is hotly contested in several districts, especially in Districts 1 and 9, where Austin and Caldwell are running. Shelby County Schools will face several major challenges under the new board, as they transition their focus away from merging two districts toward competing for students with six new municipal school districts, as well as charter schools and the Achievement School District.
Money raised for the campaign is used to pay for candidates’ political strategists and advertising campaigns. It also allows them to hire poll workers and purchase campaign signs. The limit for school board race donations is $1,500 for individuals and $7,400 for Political Action Committees.
The other school board candidates’ fundraising has apparently not kept up. None of them have raised more than $3,000 between April and June, according to the current financial disclosures listed on the Shelby County election commission’s website. Seven of the other candidates’ disclosures are currently not posted, so it’s unclear how much money they’ve raised.
Caldwell and Austin chalked up the extent of their shared donors to coincidence.
“In Memphis, although it’s a big city, it’s a small town,” said Austin. “The same people have interest in the same things.”….. Read more here
July 14, 2014
From providing more parental resources to holding budget meetings with the county commission, nine of the 14 Shelby County Schools board candidates shared how they would prioritize the district’s needs during a forum Monday night at First Baptist Church in the Binghampton neighborhood.