Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Metro Council fills school board vacancy

Former Garcia assistant will replace Alan Coverstone By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • July 22, 2009 A woman with years of experience in and around Metro schools is the school board's newest member. The Metro Council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to elect Kay Simmons to the West Nashville seat left vacant by Alan Coverstone, who resigned last month to take a job in the school district's administration. Simmons received 29 of 38 votes, easily outpacing Elizabeth Merkel, the only other candidate in the seven-person field who received any votes. She said she raised $12 million for Metro schools as executive director of the Nashville Alliance for Public Education from 2003 to 2007. She also worked as a special assistant to Pedro Garcia, the district's former director, in 2007 and 2008, when she retired from full-time work after Garcia resigned. Simmons, 60, has extensive experience working in private schools as well. Her own children attended both public and private schools. She said she'll run for the District 9 seat covering Bellevue, Belle Meade and Hillwood next summer, when voters will decide who represents them until the term started by Coverstone ends in 2012. "I would love to dig my heels in and go to work and make a difference," Simmons said. "I take this as a very serious job and commitment, and I will give it everything I've got. Nothing is more important." Hanging over the school board is the possibility that it won't exist in its present form if test scores continue to fall below standards and the state is allowed to change the way the district is run. Mayor Karl Dean could be allowed to take charge. Simmons said she hopes that won't be necessary but she is "here to help in whatever way possible." Others question choice Two of the candidates who received no votes said council members seemed to have made up their minds weeks ago to vote for Simmons or Merkel. Martin Kennedy, a Middle Tennessee State University economics professor with five children in Metro schools and a passionate defense of charter schools, said he suspected "some level of horse trading and back scratching." But Simmons said she met most of the council members for the first time after declaring her candidacy. "I think they just looked at what I've done, and they know why I'm in this race," she said. Lee Limbird, who finished second to Coverstone in last year's election, withdrew from the race last weekend because of family considerations. In other business, the council: • Deferred the second of three votes on a proposed gun ban for Metro parks until Aug. 6. A new state law allows handgun carry permit holders to take their guns into state and local parks, but local governments can opt out. • Approved a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance on the first of three votes. The bill would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees and prospective employees from discrimination in the city's hiring and promotion practices. Councilman Robert Duvall attempted to defeat the bill on the first vote, which is unusual; most bills are routinely passed at that stage and moved into the council's committee system. Duvall's effort failed as the council voted 24-9 for the bill. • Moved the next meeting from Aug. 4 to Aug. 6 to avoid a conflict with National Night Out Against Crime.

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