District 4 Metro Nashville School Board Candidate Kelli Phillips Is a 20-Year Mom ‘Who Is Tired of Watching the Current State of Our School System’

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 District 4 School Board Candidate Kelli Phillips in-studio to discuss what makes her different from the other candidates.

Leahy: In-studio with us for the first time is Kelli Phillips, who’s a candidate for the Metro Nashville School Board District 4. Good morning, Kelly.

Phillips: Good morning. Thank you for having me. Early in the morning.

Leahy: So I hear you do have a little bit of experience broadcasting. When you were at University of Tennessee, you also had a 5:00 a.m. to. 8:00 a.m. shift there, right?

Phillips: (Chuckles) I did. When I was in college, my junior year, one of my classes required me to be on the air on Sunday mornings from 5:00 to 8:00. And I think occasionally I had a few people listening. Most of those were when my parents were in town visiting and listening.

Leahy: How did you like getting up at 3:30 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning to make that 5:00?

Phillips: Well, I’m going to say it’s a lot different in your 20s than it is in your 40s.

Leahy: Try it at 67. (Laughter) I do that Monday through Friday here. That’s quite a challenge. Now, why did you decide to run for the school board?

Phillips: Well, for me, after watching our children struggle over the past few years, COVID kind of brought to light things that were happening – or more importantly, not happening in our public school system.

I think that when we did virtual learning at home, a lot of parents started paying attention to what their kids were learning.

And for me, just watching my own children, especially the first thing for me was watching my son get his high school diploma through the window of his car.

Leahy: You’re kidding me? Drive-through diplomas?

Phillips: Correct. Drive-through, yes. I have pictures of it.

Leahy: You’re kidding me?

Phillips: No.

Leahy: When did he get his diploma?

Phillips: It was in May of 2020. So right at the beginning. And that’s a rite of passage for a lot of kids. That’s a big deal. And then the next year, I watched my junior lose her entire sophomore year, not just in the classroom, but in the marching band.

Leahy: She couldn’t do marching band.

Phillips: Nothing. Some of the sports were going on, but a lot of kids lost scholarship opportunities. And just watching all that made me realize that as a parent, it wasn’t enough for me just to go speak at the school board meetings, which I did and do. For me, this was something that I felt very strongly that I had to do. It wasn’t an option.

Leahy: So tell us about District 4. What area does District 4 cover?

Phillips: District 4 is the McGavock cluster, and that is Old Hickory, Donelson, and Hermitage.

Leahy: Old Hickory, Donelson, and Hermitage. And so do you have a primary election here?

Phillips: There is a primary this year, since the school board elections were made partisan this year. Now in District 4, I’m running unopposed on the Republican ticket.

Leahy: Okay, so this is the May 3rd primary. You are, in effect, the Republican nominee, in this district.

Phillips: Correct.

Leahy: When will the general election be held?

Phillips: August 4th.

Leahy: And it’s one of these odd things about Tennessee; When I first moved here back in 1991 and then had our first election to vote for, I guess it was 1992, it struck me as very odd that you had the combination of the county general elections on the first Thursday in August.

Thursday, mind you. Not Tuesday, Thursday. And then the primary elections for statewide office on the same day. It’s one of those peculiarities of Tennessee.

So a primary on a Thursday, as opposed to a Tuesday, I think we may be the only state that does that. I think there are some states where the primary/general election in the summer is on Saturday. So you are the Republican nominee.

Phillips: Correct.

Leahy: And who are you likely to face on the Democratic side?

Phillips: That’s a very good question. Right now the two candidates that are on the Democratic ticket, John Little is the current. And then Dr. Berthena is running against him.

Leahy: Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney.

Phillips: Now, she was actually on our school board when the school board member for District 4 passed away a few years ago. She was placed on the board in a temporary position.

Leahy: Appointed temporarily.

Phillips: Correct. So she has been on our board. And then she ran in an election against John Little and then I believe Steve Chauncy.

Leahy: And John Little won that. So there’s a rematch. One of them will then be your opponent in August. We’ll talk about the differences between how you’re going to do it and what they would go for.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: We’re talking about the two Democrats who are competing against each other in the primary. One is John Little. We’ll get to him in a bit.

The other is a woman by the name of Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney. She was appointed to this position back in 2020 by Metro Council when the incumbent passed away, and then she lost an election to the current incumbent, John Little.

They’re in the Democrat battle on May 3rd. We’ll see who ends up winning. Interesting background for Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney, her educational background consists of an EDD in leadership and professional practice, a master’s in education administration and supervision, and a Bachelors of Science in biology and chemistry.

She looks like to me, that background sounds like a classic left-wing educrat. I wonder where she got her EDD in leadership and professional practice. I can’t find it here on her website. But if you look at the kind of things that she’s done, this tells me that her business is being an educational bureaucrat from what I can tell. That’s interesting. What’s your background, Kelli? How are you different from that?

Phillips: I’m different just about, I guess, every way you could be. I don’t have a lot of degrees associated with my name. When people ask me what my qualifications are – I actually had somebody ask me that.

“You don’t have a background in education.”

And I said, “No, I don’t. But I have a background of being a mom for 20-plus years.”

My oldest graduated, as I said, from Metro Schools. I have a current junior in our school system and my youngest just turned 3, and he’s not in our school system yet. So my qualifications are being a parent who is tired of watching the current state of our school system.

Leahy: Now, either John Little, incumbent, or this Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney, it seems they’re for all the wrong things and you’re for all the right things. So let’s give an example of what they’re for and what you’re for.

Phillips: COVID. I know right now everything seems to go back to COVID, but that’s been our reality for two years – instead of two weeks to slow the spread we’ve been at two years now. They both actively sought to keep our kids out of the classrooms, to keep them in masks.

And the masks are what actually got me involved in this. That’s what you want to get me fired up about, I’ll talk about that. But I’m different from them because I fought to keep them in the classrooms.

Less than 30 percent of our younger children are reading at grad- level standards right now because they’ve been out of the classroom. That’s right.

Listen to the interview:

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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.

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