By Bill Short
Position 5 School Board member Louise Kennon, seeking her second term, is being challenged by Ronnie Mackin in the Nov. 8 Millington city elections.
Kennon has a Doctor of Education Degree and is a retired Shelby County schoolteacher.
She is a member of the Millington Exchange Club and the First United Methodist Church in Millington.
Kennon has one daughter, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Mackin earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in elementary education at The University of Memphis in 1999 and a Master of Science Degree in school administration and supervision at Bethel College in 2005.
He is employed as the principal of Trezevant High School in Memphis.
Mackin is a member of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Tennessee Principal Association and New Leaders for New Schools.
He has received Uncommon Schools Culture training, school administration training in the National Association of Advanced Teacher Education, school turnaround training at The University of Virginia, principal training at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and principal manager training at the Relay Graduate School of Education.
Mackin and his wife Lisa have three children.
Both candidates recently responded to the following questions prepared and distributed by The Millington Star:
1. What additional policies do you think the newly elected school board should adopt after it is sworn in?
Kennon said school policies are adopted as needed.
Mackin said that, to be competitive with other municipal and neighboring districts, the board should adopt “alternative ways” to compensate teachers and staff, based on advanced degrees and training. He also recommended “mandatory” annual performance evaluations for every employee in the school district.
2. List three significant issues in this election.
Kennon cited secure funding, capital improvements and the need to prepare students to be productive citizens by building the best system for those who are college-bound or who choose the vocational route.
Mackin listed retention of high-performing teachers, compensation for certified teachers who have advanced degrees and recruiting students and families for Millington’s schools as part of a strategy for district growth.
3. Specifically, how do you plan to deal with each of these issues if elected or re-elected?
Kennon said she will continue to look for “alternative” funding, such as grants or gifts, and continue to promote more housing construction in Millington.
“Great schools bring families into the community,” she noted. “This adds to the tax base.”
While noting that the school system’s Five-Year Plan includes capital improvements, Kennon said the board will continue to update it and address the most important needs.
She also said she will work to develop more “dual enrollment,” Advanced Placement and industrial arts classes.
“Programs in the industrial arts are limited because of state requirements for graduation,” she noted. “We will continue to strive for more courses that will make a student ready for work at graduation.”
Mackin said he will work with the school board, district staff and superintendent to build a “strategic” teacher recruitment plan that attracts the “highest quality” teachers and school administrators, while retaining “great” teachers already in the school system.
He said this would include appointment of a committee of “diverse” district staff members that partners with neighboring municipalities/districts and implements a strong talent-management plan to hire, develop and retain “great teachers in every classroom.”
Mackin also recommended appointment of a team of district staff, including the superintendent, school administrators, personnel director, certificated teachers and school board members to develop a “fair and equitable” compensation plan for educators who have advanced degrees.
“In order for our district to stay competitive and become an even better place to work,” he noted, “we must reward our staff for their advanced degrees and value their hard work and professional growth.”
Mackin also said that, working with key city and county leaders, the school system should develop a “comprehensive engagement plan” that involves families in Millington’s incorporated and unincorporated areas.
He called it “crucial” that the system work on increasing enrollment to ensure that it has funding for “long-term sustainability.”
“Great schools attract more families,” he noted, “which will also help grow our city in ways that benefit all families, regardless of background or in which corner of Millington they reside.”
4. What do you think is the biggest concern facing the municipal school system at this time?
Kennon cited funding security and continued support from the city, parents, grandparents, businesses, churches and organizations.
“The city and the schools are connected at the hip,” she noted. “If the schools fail, so will the city. If schools are successful, the community will be great, and more will want to join us.”
Mackin said it is important for the system to find a way to retain its best teachers and to compete with other districts.
“We need to be more competitive academically and hold all staff accountable for improvement,” he noted, “from academics to community involvement to facilities management.”
5. What specifically, makes you best qualified for the position you are seeking or seeking to retain?
Citing more than 50 years of experience working with children and young adults, Kennon said she taught kindergarten through the 12th grade and college through graduate courses.
“My family believed education was a continuing adventure,” she noted. “I still believe this and hope that seeking to retain my seat on the school board is an example that life and learning go from birth to death.”
Citing his seven years as a teacher and 11 as a school principal, Mackin said he believes he has the educational experience to help lead the school system to the “next level of excellence.”
“I would be a practicing and relevant educator,” he noted, “which I believe would be crucial in working to improve our district over the next several years.”