‘Leadership Tennessee’ Promotes Political Agenda While Claiming to Be Non-Partisan

Leadership Tennessee” the 10-month leadership education program hosted by Lipscomb University and funded in part by The Haslam Foundation, Haslam family’s Flying Pilot J, the Hyde Family Foundation and the Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville, whose board at one time included Haslam, says it’s mission is to “foster[s] collaborative, non-partisan dialogue…”

Two members of Class 1 of Leadership Tennessee (2013 to 2014) are currently candidates for governor: former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd.

One member of Class 1, Renata Soto, is chairman of the board of the National Council of La Raza, a group funded in part by George Soros, and the Executive Director of Conexion Americas, a Nashville based group to which Boyd and his wife contributed approximately $250,000 in September 2016. Conexion Americas is listed as a Tennessee affiliate of the National Council of La Raza.

The program was launched by a four member team:

Tom Ingram, a political advisor to both Republicans and Democrats including Haslam, Lamar Alexander and Karl Dean when he was mayor of Nashville who has announced he will run in the Democrat 2018 primary for governor.

Cathy Cate, the executive director whose husband Mark Cate, a member of the 2014 class was the governor’s chief of staff during Haslam’s first term.

Linda Peek Schacht whose impressive credentials include a position with the Carter White House and as communications director for the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

Randolph Lowry, President of Lipscomb University who has moved the university to more liberal, socially progressive positions, including for example, Lipscomb’s scholarships reserved for Latino students and partnering with TIRRC (TN Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition), an affiliate of the National Council of La Raza, in their annual “Welcoming Events.”

Before the first Tennessee Leadership class convened, it was being promoted by program funder J. Laurens Tullock, President Of The Cornerstone Foundation Of Knoxville. Pointing to the merits of the program he wrote that finding the “best” solutions to issues confronting Tennessee,”… requires an intentional effort to collaborate — to reach across boundaries, think long term and focus on renewal:”

“A terrific example of collaboration in action is the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and led by former state Senator Jamie Woodson of Knoxville. SCORE has been the catalyst for transforming Tennessee into a national leader in education reform.”

In 2011, Jamie Woodson who represented Knox County, resigned her Senate seat to take the position of president and chief executive officer of SCORE; she was in the first year class of Tennessee Leadership. SCORE was a vocal proponent of retaining Common Core standards for Tennessee.

The Hyde Foundation, another funder of Leadership Tennessee, also “provided generous financial support to SCORE” as well as serving on its board of directors.

Renata Soto, co-founder and director of Conexion Americas and chairman of the board of the National Council of La Raza, as well as a member of Class 1 of Leadership Tennessee, serves on SCORE’s Steering Committee.

Part of  Haslam’s first campaign for governor was his K-12 Education Reform agenda based on defending the Common Core standards that were adopted by Tennessee in 2010. Haslam said he would “support the state’s newly implemented standards that raise expectations for our students and resist any pushback that comes with a more realistic assessment of how our students and our schools are faring.”

Haslam has said that he wants to be known as the “education governor.” In 2015, Haslam signed a bill that effectively repealed Tennessee’s Common Core standards.

The full list of members of Class 1 of Leadership Tennessee (2013 to 2014) includes:

Laura Adams
Executive Director
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy

Dr. Mary Lou Apple
Motlow State Community College

Rep. Joe Armstrong
Tennessee General Assembly
President, NBCSL

Janet Ayers
The Ayers Foundation

Steve Bares
President + Executive Director
Memphis Bioworks Foundation

Martha Perine Beard
Memphis Regional Executive
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Randy Boyd
President + CEO
Radio Systems Corporation

Michael Burcham
President + CEO
Nashville Entreprenuer Center

Mike Carpenter
Executive Director
Plough Foundation

MaryAnne Carter
MAC Research

Mayor Karl F. Dean
Metro Nashville – Davidson County

Stacey A. Garrett
Founding Member + Chair, Board of Directors
Bone McAllester Norton PLLC
VP Online & Professional Studies
Cumberland University

Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder
Department of Veterans Services
State of Tennessee

Jim Hobson
Memorial Health Care

Commissioner Rebecca Hunter
Department of Human Resources
State of Tennessee

A. Richard (Rick) Johnson
President + CEO
The Governor’s Foundation for Health & Wellness

Raja Jubran
Denark Construction, Inc.

Dr. Thom Mason
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Mayor Kim McMillian
City of Clarksville

Dr. Candice McQueen
Dean, College of Education
Lipscomb University

David Ogle
Five Oaks Development

Dr. Claude O. Pressnell
Tennessee Independent Colleges & Universities

Jack Sammons
Memphis & Shelby County Airport Authority

Commissioner John Schroer
Department of Transportation
State of Tennessee

Renata Soto
Executive Director
Conexion Americas

Michael T. Strickland
Bandit Lites

Blair Taylor
Memphis Tomorrow

J. Laurens Tullock
Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville

Todd Womack
Chief of Staff
Senator Bob Corker

Jamie Woodson
President + CEO
Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)


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2 Thoughts to “‘Leadership Tennessee’ Promotes Political Agenda While Claiming to Be Non-Partisan”

  1. […] recently participated in Leadership Tennessee, and now serves on its Advisory Council — with former Haslam Chief of Staff Mark Cate — whose […]

  2. […] Leadership Tennessee, a program funded by Governor Haslam and his allies, was launched to promote “collaborative leadership” across political, cultural and business lines that could problem-solve for the “common good.” Complete Tennessee is gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd’s initiative to “complete the mission of education and economic development initiatives” of the Haslam administration. […]