By Sally Absher

Two days before the start of early voting, and less than one month from the November general election and all is quiet in Knoxville.  Not that the re-election of Governor Haslam, Senator Alexander, or Congressman Duncan is in any real danger.

One of the races that should be getting a lot of attention is the special election for the Board of Education 2nd District seat vacated by Indya Kincannon.

SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educators Across Knox County) has been paying attention. All three candidates submitted  responses to the SPEAK questionnaire. Last week, SPEAK Co-President Dave Gorman issued the following endorsement:

“After careful deliberation of the qualifications of all the candidates, the leadership of SPEAK is endorsing Jamie Rowe for the 2nd District seat. We feel she is best qualified to represent the interests and concerns of students, parents, teachers, and the community of the 2nd District, and Knox County in general.

Jamie Rowe has always done her own research, even hiring experts, at her own expense, to get unbiased and accurate information. She will ask questions and verify the answers given. Jamie listens and acts. Her community leadership in the 2nd District is unequaled. Her campaign website speaks to the real issues and concerns of students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers.

Issues matter most. With Jamie Rowe we have a candidate that will speak to the issues. SPEAK endorses Jamie Rowe because she is the only candidate to date who has expressed what the issues are and what she thinks should be done about those issues. It is this leadership that we find to be the deciding factor for endorsement.”

Two of the three candidates declared their intent to run early on. Jamie Rowe was the first to file, and Tracie Sanger committed soon after. Sanger originally applied for the interim position held by John Fugate, but changed her mind, deciding instead to run in the November special election.

Charlotte Dorsey, who referred to herself  on Inside Tennessee as the “invisible candidate,” filed her petition with the election commission at around 9:30 am on September 10 (the deadline was noon). Dorsey also applied for the interim position, and indicated at that time she “hadn’t decided” if she was going to run in the election or not.

The May and August elections, plus the appointment of J. Fugate, turned a board that consistently voted 8-1 with Superintendent Dr. McIntyre to one that was more likely than not to vote 5-4 against him. The new BOE members also elected Mike McMillan as Chairman.

It’s all about counting to five. It is no secret that the November special election for the 2nd District seat could maintain the current balance, or flip it back to a 5-4 pro-McIntyre board.

But it’s not about Dr. McIntyre anymore. He works for the BOE, not vice versa, and the new BOE made that very clear in their first few meetings. What McMillan, J. Fugate, Terry Hill, Patti Bounds, and Amber Rountree have brought to the BOE is reasoned debate and a welcome focus on issues.

What do the 2nd District candidates say about the issues? We queried their campaign websites and Facebook pages. You will have the opportunity to see all three candidates Monday Oct. 13, at the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum – 6pm at the Christenberry Community Center.

Tracie Sanger’s website ( lists her primary qualifications as “educator and parent.” She says, “I’m not a politician, and I’m committed to doing what’s right for our children and our school system.” She adds, “there is too much bickering and finger-pointing by our elected officials.”

Sanger’s campaign Facebook page is full of photos of cute kids with her political signs. And she posted that her signs are being taken.

Charlotte Dorsey has a campaign Facebook page created on September 18. A recent post says “New chair elected for KC Board of Education. Guess what? He agrees with me that it is too expensive to get rid of the superintendent.”

She also posts “My political signs will be ready tomorrow. I dislike this part of campaigning because of the visual pollution signs create. I will not put out as many as my opponents.” And she defends the comment she made that “Dr. McIntyre has done some wonderful things.”

Jamie Rowe wins the website award ( Her website is easy to navigate, and has pages for concerns, media, plans, platform, qualifications, and resume.

The most important concerns, according to Rowe, are making students and learning (not tests) as the top priority; teacher evaluations and board representation; equitable educational experiences across Knox County; wise use of financial resources, and building repair and maintenance.

For each of these, she lists specific solutions. For example, on teacher evaluations and board representation, she says, “I will work to implement a better evaluation process with course-specialized educators, add a teacher representative to the board, changes in the observation process, and stop SAT-10 tests of kindergarten through second grade.”

(The SAT-10 test is not a state-mandated assessment, and many researchers say it is not appropriate or reliable for children 8 and younger.)

Rowe’s “media” page contains links to recent articles and interviews, including the October 5 Inside Tennessee segment; articles in the Shopper News, Knoxville Focus, and News-Sentinel; and a link to a September 24 Rude Awakening (94.3 FM) interview.

The “plans” page shows real commitment to the 2nd District. She says she will use 20% of her salary to purchase books for 1st and 2nd graders to keep and take home with them. She pledges to host monthly meetings in the district, so parents and teachers can voice concerns about issues. She will have a dedicated phone line ONLY for school issues.

Rowe’s platform is simple. She supports strong public schools; open dialogue with teachers; restructuring teacher evaluations to be fair and accurate; equitable educational experiences across Knox County, and transparency in all school board issues.

Jamie Rowe has unique experience that makes her qualified to serve on the school board. Her experience working with several Commissioners on different issues will allow her to build on those relationships as decisions are made about important issues such as school funding.

As SPEAK said in their endorsement last week of Rowe, “Issues matter most.”

Others have endorsed Jamie Rowe as well. Gloria Johnson, a teacher and state representative, said, “Jamie is my choice, she is great at research, is extremely fair, and has done amazing work in our schools as a volunteer.”

Lauren Hopson, who one year ago initiated the army of teachers, students, and parents speaking out at BOE meetings commented, “If I lived in District 2, I would personally vote for Jamie.”

Early voting begins October 15 and runs through October 30. Election Day is November 4.