After the recent election for six of the 12 seats on the Williamson County Board of Education, two newcomers will be sworn in at the Sept. 19 regular monthly meeting.
Filling the gap left in District 8 by Candy Emerson will be Donna Clements, who defeated Ken Chilton with 2,036 votes to his 1,229. In District 12, Drason Beasley assumes the seat as he received 1,950 votes to incumbent Nancy Garrett’s 1,374.
The two new faces on the board are the first since Josh Brown was selected by the Williamson County Commission to replace Brad Fiscus in District 4 last October (and was re-elected Aug. 4) and Jen Aprea was elected to District 5 in 2020 to replace Gary Anderson.
Clements and Beasley will spend the next several weeks getting prepared for their roles within the Williamson County Schools district.
Though she has been busy in recent years raising her four children, Clements believes her earlier experience in education is what motivated her to run for a seat on the Williamson County school board.
She served as a teacher in some capacity for more than 10 years, long enough, she feels, to gain a true appreciation for challenges teachers face these days.
“When I was knocking door to door and talking with my constituents, I think the fact that I was a teacher really resounded with them,” said Clements, who has lived in Williamson County for more than 20 years. “That’s truly why I ran. If I had any other background I wouldn’t be doing this. I love this county, and I wanted to give back.”
Clements said another key to her win was the endorsement of Emerson, who is stepping down from her District 8 seat for personal reasons.
In addition, Clements had support from the parents-right group Moms for Liberty, which has voiced loud opposition to issues such as mask requirements and vaccinations related to COVID-19. The organization has also railed against the WCS curriculum Wit and Wisdom for elementary schools.
“Despite growing controversy and passionate parental complaints over the current curricula, Wit and Wisdom, our school board has told parents that making a few minor changes would suffice,” Clements said in a Home Page questionnaire earlier this year. … "I know we can do better; we must do better for the sake of the children and families of Williamson County.”
Beyond attending the required school board meetings and doing her “homework” on specific issues and policies, Clements said she wants to have a hands-on approach as a board member.
“I am super-excited to serve our community,” she said. “I want to be present in the schools as a volunteer and just being available.”
With a degree in Education from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, plus his more than 24 years working directly with children and youth for the Williamson County Juvenile Detention Center, Beasley believes he is “uniquely suited to serve” on the WCS school board.
But even though he unseated Garrett by close to 60 percent of the votes, Beasley knows he won’t be coming in with a swagger.
“This race was not about my opponent,” he said. “I understand it takes major sacrifice and dedication to serve on the school board, and I have deep respect for all past and current board members.
“I simply felt my background and education could be beneficial and hoped to gain a seat by running. I hope to represent all my constituents to the best of my ability and will continue working daily to advocate for all our children.”
Beasley and his wife, Sonya, have three children in WCS district schools, a fact he knows gives him a personal look at the state of schools.
“I feel I can offer the firsthand perspective of a parent invested in ensuring his children and all Williamson County children continue to get the best education possible,” Beasley said in a response to a questionnaire earlier this year. “I have been very concerned about some of the issues recently facing our school system and want to be involved in making good decisions to support the absolute best outcomes for our children.”
As others have expressed in the last couple of years, Beasley has concerns with the Wit and Wisdom curriculum and whether some of it is age appropriate.
But he believes the biggest challenge WCS and the board are facing is the hiring and retention of educators.
“Teachers and staff are our greatest asset and resource in WCS,” he said through the questionnaire. “We have got to work together and appropriately compensate and reward them for their service to our children. I will be a strong advocate for competitive pay for our WCS professionals.”