Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Metro Nashville School Board candidate for District 2, Mark Woodward to the newsmakers line to discuss his background and main objectives if elected to the board.
Leahy: We are joined also now on a newsmaker line by new friend Mark Woodward, who’s a Republican running for the school board in Metro Nashville, Davidson County, in the second district. Good morning, Mark Woodward.
Woodward: Good morning, Michael. Thanks for having me on.
Leahy: Well, great to have you on. You are the owner of Mark Woodward Music and you’re also the music and drama director at the Montessori Academy.
It’s a private school in Brentwood. And you’re a member of the Davidson County Republican Party’s executive committee. So you’re a bona fide Republican from best I can tell, Mark.
Woodward: Yes, sir, that’s correct.
Leahy: Now, in the second district, you’re running against Rachael Anne Elrod, Democrat. She’s currently the vice chair former teacher. She’s a big fan of masks. What are the big issues here?
Woodward: I think Rachael is a really talented person. I think what we were concerned about was that there would be ramifications to the mask that we didn’t see coming. So I co-authored an open letter from the Republican Party to the school board urging them to reconsider instituting a mask mandate.
And that was back in July of last year. And what we are concerned about is things that we have now seen proven by research, which is that there have been speech delays in really young children and English-as-second-language learners.
English learners, they’re slower to pick up the language, and then we’re dealing with anxiety, depression among young people. Teenagers and masks have contributed negatively to that.
And so I understand that the school system, they have a tough decision to make. They’ve got teachers saying “we don’t want to come if we’re in-person, and we don’t want to come if we’re in masks.” But I definitely think that we’ve done a disservice to our students.
Leahy: Now just to catch up, I think that the board finally voted to get rid of the masks and make them optional. It was supposed to go into effect March 11th, and it gave Superintendent Adrienne Battle the right to reimpose mask mandates if she wanted, if it met certain criteria and standards. Do you know where it stands right now in terms of Metro Nashville Davidson schools and masks?
Woodward: As far as I know, they are doing away with the mandate at the end of spring break. I think that we have … Davidson and Williamson County were featured in an Atlantic article done by some really respected researchers recently, where they compared our COVID case rates, found they were virtually identical, and Williamson County had been mask-optional.
Eyewitness people had said that maybe 80 percent of the kids were going around without masks, same COVID case rates. And so we’re not seeing the benefits from masks that we wanted to.
But the main reason I’m running is that I think that Davidson County has a really bright future. I think Nashville is a great city, and I think we could become a leader in education, and I want to be part of seeing that happen.
Leahy: You face a Republican primary, don’t you? When is that going to happen?
Woodward: Yes. May 3rd is the primary election, and then August 4th is the general.
Leahy: What areas of Metro Nashville, Davidson County District 2 cover?
Woodward: We’re in South Nashville. So, Whispering Hills, Old Hickory Boulevard to Nolensville Road. So just a great part of town.
Leahy: What’s your game plan? Are you knocking on doors? What are you doing for your campaign?
Woodward: I’m talking to as many people as I can. I’m a full-time teacher. And so I know a lot of people in this area. I coach baseball. I assistant-coach softball in the Crieve Hall area. Yes, I’m meeting as many people as possible.
I’m knocking on doors. We’re going to be doing mailers. We’re kind of ramping up our website right now. So, yes, we’re doing what we need to do.
Leahy: What is that website that you’re ramping up, by the way?
Leahy: Woodward4schools.com. Singular or plural schools?
Woodward: Schools. Yes, sir.
Leahy: Got it. Now you say you coached baseball, what do you coach?
Woodward: So, before I was married, I coached in the RBI League, reviving baseball in the inner city for three years with coach Darryl Robinson.
And now that I’m married and have kids, my sons are getting older and so I have coached 6 and under, and now I’m 8 and under and now I’m at 9 and 10.
Leahy: Did you play baseball yourself?
Woodward: I did. I’m a big baseball player.
Leahy: Well, where did you play?
Woodward: I went to a school in Chattanooga and grew up in Georgia, but I moved to Nashville as an adult, and I was a pitcher.
Leahy: Lefty or righty?
Leahy: Did you just play in high school or did you play in college?
Woodward: I played in high school. I could have played in college, but I wanted to study music. And you can’t really do baseball and music at the same time. I ran track and cross country at Belmont and studied music at Belmont.
Leahy: Oh, so you dropped baseball at Belmont for track?
Woodward: It would have been a job. It would have been a full-time job.
Leahy: Well, I understand that. What did you run in track?
Woodward: I ran the long distance. So I did the mile, I did the 8K and the 10K. I was a walk-on. So we had Kenyans on our team, and I did not have an illustrious college track career, (Leahy laughs) but we did win the Atlantic Championship while I was there on the team. I’m sorry to say I did not contribute to that.
Leahy: Did you ever run a marathon?
Woodward: I’ve never run a marathon. I have run the distance of a half-marathon but never had that privilege yet.
Leahy: What’s going to be your number one priority if you are elected to the school board?
Woodward: I want to be a voice for parents. I want to make sure that we’re being servant leaders and we recognize that we’re serving parents. We’re the delegated authority of the parents.
They have the responsibility and authority for the child’s education and so we really need to be serving them. We need to be responsive to them. Something else I want us to do is to reevaluate our approach to education.
Right now we have the public school system sort of based on a factory model where we needed a lot of workers for factory jobs.
And we approach it with the same mentality where we’ve got a product that comes into our factory and we take kids all the same age and we want to cram them with the right set of information and knowledge and skills and then send them out to the job market and that’s just not how human beings work. I’d like to see, especially in early childhood education – there’s a study just came out of Vanderbilt that showed that kids that go through our government pre-K have long-term negative effects from that.
Those kids are scoring higher by kindergarten. And my opponent is a huge proponent of pre-K expansion. I think we need to really look at what we’re doing in pre-K before we try to expand it.
Listen to the full interview here:
– – –
Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Mark Woodward” by Mark Woodward for School Board.