Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) hosted the second of four virtual forums Thursday for school board candidates to address questions and issues facing Metro Nashville Schools, with Metro Councilmember Kyonzte Toombs (District 2) serving as moderator.
Incumbents Christiane Buggs, District 5, and Freda Player-Peters, District 7, are both running without opposition.
Buggs has two master’s degrees in Education from Tennessee State University. She has taught in a Nashville charter school for over two years and in a Nashville public school for over three years. Buggs was a board member for the YMCA Black Achievers and currently serves as the assistant director of TRIO Programs at Tennessee State University.
Player-Peters has a long political career beginning with former Vice-President Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential campaign. She has served as political director at the Tennessee Democratic Party, state director for the Tennessee Change that Works campaign, and is currently executive director of Emerge Tennessee, a Democratic women’s campaign training program.
NOAH members questioned candidates about solutions for racial inequality in public schools, given that Black students were three times more likely to be suspended than white students in MNPS for the 2019-2020 year.
Buggs said she has pushed anti-racism policies to provide more training for teachers and acknowledged the stigma of racial discussion.
“I have a black child. As a teacher I had to acknowledge my own bias towards African Americans and even female students. So, I know that’s something that we in the education community don’t readily talk about because it is uncomfortable,” said Buggs.
Player-Peters says schools need funding to provide ongoing training in order to get to the heart of inequities.
“If it’s not sustainable, we can’t bring down the suspension rates,” said Player-Peters.
Other topics funding constraints and Buggs said she will continue pushing community members as well as state and local officials for investment. Player-Peters echoed Buggs, saying resources have not increased with the growth of communities.
“We cannot continue to do more with less,” said Buggs.
NOAH asked candidates to inform the public on their donors. Player-Peters has received donations from PACs and counts herself as one of her biggest donors. She has also received endorsement from former Mayor David Briley.
Buggs is her own biggest donor and has received endorsement from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Women in Numbers (WIN), a nonpartisan organization that encourages women to hold public office.
Questions attendees included whether board members expect schools to physically reopen in time for fall and whether police presence at schools should be replaced by Metro Council members.
“It’s not realistic to think we can keep students and staff safe with limited resources,” said Buggs.
Player-Peters also remains skeptical of safe reopening, saying the public as a collective community have not practiced effective social distancing and other public health measures.
Both candidates noted school resource officers are funded by Metro Police and given the school system’s limited resources, a shift to add additional, non-law enforcement staff isn’t possible now.
Both candidates spoke of the benefits to providing technology to disadvantaged children and additional training for teachers to promote remote learning.
“This was the blessing of COVId,” said Player-Peters, adding that schools providing a greater technology ratio with students helps to better prepare them for the modern world.
NOAH is a faith-led social-justice organization that addresses issues dealing with race and political issues but does not endorse political candidates.
State and federal primary elections are scheduled for August 6.