As the Aug. 4 Williamson County election draws closer, the Williamson Home Page is profiling candidates in the Williamson County Board of Education race.
When Nancy Garrett saw an opportunity to represent District 12 on the Williamson County Board of Education in 2016, she felt certain she had the qualifications for the job.
A lifelong resident of Williamson County, she stayed involved in the schools as a parent from the time her only child, Quinn, had entered kindergarten at Moore Elementary through his graduation from Centennial High School. She had served for four years on the PTO at Centennial, and was president in her son’s senior year.
Even before that, her enthusiasm for public education had sprouted from her father, the late William Nelson, a chemistry and physics teacher for 36 years at Franklin High and a couple more in Maury County. She was active in student government and held various offices while a student herself.
So as she sensed a change was about to happen on the board concerning then District 12 member Susan Curlee — who had been elected in 2014 and resigned two years later after a tumultuous time — Garrett put her name on the list to take over the seat. She had been attending school board meetings regularly, and felt up to speed.
A large majority of county commissioners agreed, selecting her for District 12 by a 17-7 vote.
“I kind of had a feeling it wasn’t going to work out for her,” Garrett said of Curlee. “I thought if this opens up, I’m going to go for it. I know my community and I’m confident I can legitimately serve them and care for what’s going on. Because I attended all those meetings, I was able to hit the ground running.”
Garrett was elected to remain on the seat in 2018, and has served the last two years as the school board’s chair. An independent, she is running against Republican Drason Beasley in the Aug. 4 election.
“A lot of people ask me why I keep doing this,” Garrett said, referring to the fact that she’s had to chair a number of board meetings that have become rather contentious the last couple of years. “Well, because it matters. It matters what we do for our students and what we do for the future of our community. And it’s worth it to go through all of this with that idea in mind. We are preparing students to lead in the future.
“My family has had three generations of investment in this district, and it’s my passion. It’s just worth it to do this work.”
It’s work she believes should be done in a nonpartisan way. The Tennessee legislature voted last fall to allow counties to hold elections with candidates having the opportunity to declare their party affiliation, with about half of those running for school board in Williamson declaring as Republican or Democrat and the other half as independents.
“As a board member,” Garrett said, “I want to hold myself to the same standard that we hold our classroom teachers to: nonpartisan public service to our students. I just don’t believe that board members should have a different standard than the teachers they serve.”
Garrett, who has worked as a national knowledge leader for a global professional services organization for the past 16 years and is active in several nonprofits, said “public schools are one of our country’s greatest creations,” pointing out a saying she recalls hearing from a former director of schools for the Franklin Special School District, Janice Shelby.
“She said every family sends their best,” Garrett explained, “And when you think about it, that’s really true. Every family sends their hopes and dreams, and we serve all students, not just some students.
“So our decision-making has to be broad and strategic because of who we serve and also because of what this community expects in terms of quality education.”
Visit Nancy Garrett’s website for more information.