Pat Polis kicks off campaign for Knox County Board of Education

By Ken Lay

He’s been a military leader, the chief executive officer of a $30 million company and a leader in the ministry.

Now, Dr. Pat Polis is answering God’s next call for his life.

“My experience in the military prepared me for leadership in business and my leadership in business prepared me to lead in the ministry,” said Polis, who officially announced his candidacy for the Knox County Board of Education in North Knoxville early last week. “I prayed about this and I feel like my experience and leadership have prepared me for this.

“I’ve been in leadership and command my whole life. I’ve been the CEO of a $30 million company. I was a commander in Vietnam.”

During his time in the ministry, he was called upon to rescue struggling churches.

Polis announced that he would seek to represent District 2 on the school board at a kickoff event at the Fountain City Lions Club late Tuesday afternoon. He will look to unseat incumbent Jennifer Owen. District 2 covers 11 schools in the Fountain City and Inskip communities.

His plan is to attempt to help Knox County Schools refocus to achieve its mission.

“I will bring leadership, experience, problem solving and conflict resolution.”

Now school board seats, like other elected positions, have become partisan but Polis makes no secret that he feels they shouldn’t be. Thus, he’s seeking the seat as an independent. He also rejects labels in faith, despite being a former Methodist minister.

“I registered as an independent. I don’t like labels,” Polis said. “Our students shouldn’t be a political issue. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, not a denominationalist.”

The labels he embraces are that of family man and patriot.

“I’ve been married to the same woman for 53 years,” Polis said. “I love my family. I love God and I love my country.

“I believe in the Constitution and I took an oath to defend it, defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Despite five decades of leadership in the military, in business and in the ministry, Polis brings humility to his latest endeavor.

“I need your help,” he told his supporters and friends who attended Tuesday’s meet-and-greet in Fountain City. I have three degrees but I don’t have all the answers and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t have all the answers.”

He’s not taking his run for the school board lightly, and through extensive research, he’s learned that the challenge facing the county’s teachers and students is daunting. Additionally, he’s not one to rail.

“I’m a fixer but I won’t fix it with a hammer,” Polis said. “Whatever we’re doing, we need to be doing it better.

“When I decided to do this I had to do some research.”

And what he discovered, he said was shocking.

“When I was doing my research, I was dumbfounded at what I learned,” Polis said.

He found that students were troubled by poverty, bullying, abuse and neglect, anxiety, depression, suicide, drugs and eating disorders.

“When we were in school, the biggest thing that we worried about was who we were going to take to the prom,” Polis said.

He also noted that the biggest issues facing teachers is burnout and inadequate compensation, he said.

“We need to pay our teachers and we need to find a way to keep them,” Polis said. “We need to get the teachers back to teaching kids. Our students lack motivation and they lack discipline.

He also noted that campus safety is a big priority. He also cited the need for parental involvement in education and left his supporters with a simple vow.

“I’m giving my all to get the job done,” he said. “I will do my part as one of nine members of the board, and everything I have, I’m bringing to the table for the school board.”