Three Republicans, one incumbent vying for District 2 school board seat

Charter school expansion, how board members should engage with their constituents, and student and staff retention are key flashpoints in District 2’s race for the Nashville School Board.

The incumbent, Rachael Anne Elrod, is running for re-election as a Democrat. His opponents are Edward Arnold, an independent and one of three Republican candidates in the August 4 general election.

For the first time in Davidson County, school board races are partisan and political parties can hold primaries. Janeen Kingma, Todd Pembroke and Mark Woodward are seeking the GOP nomination in the May 3 primary. Early voting runs until April 28.

District 2, located in South Nashville, borders Brentwood on one side and Antioch on the other. It includes some of the most successful elementary schools in the Nashville metro area, but also underfunded schools that struggle to serve a large population of English-learning students.

Edward Arnold, candidate for Nashville School Board, District 2

Edward Arnold

Arnold is an independent candidate to represent District 2. Currently a doctoral student in education at Tennessee State University, Arnold’s diverse professional background includes experience in psychology, technology, teaching, and child protective services.

Arnold runs for the school board to promote a funding model he created called Teacher Incentive for Public Schools, or TIPS. Developed in 2018 with input from Nashville teachers, TIPS would allocate resources to increase teacher and staff salaries and hire teaching assistants for support in crowded classrooms.

Arnold first ran for the school board in 2014 and ran again in 2018. The issues raised in that election still persist, he said.

“In 2018, me, along with the teachers, identified a problem,” Arnold said. “We have proposed a possible solution to this problem and a method of financing this problem. I would just like to try.

A graduate of East Nashville High School, Arnold has three children, all of whom are either current MNPS students or graduates. He attributes his children’s academic success to the strength of their early education in Nashville public schools and advocates for pre-kindergarten to be more widely available.

The creator of several digital learning programs, Arnold has also published two novels.

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Rachael Anne Elrod, seeks re-election for the Nashville School Board, District 2

Rachel Anne Elrod

Elrod, the outgoing District 2 school board representative and vice-chairman of the school board, is running as a Democrat for a second term. Endorsed by the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, she has drawn attention as an advocate of mask mandates and an opponent of charter schools.

“I ran in 2018 and continue to do so because the Board of Education needs a steady voice for logic-based professional and strategic leadership,” Elrod wrote in a questionnaire for The Tennessean. “We always need members who can challenge what they know and not oversimplify complex issues.”

During his first term on the school board, Elrod cites successes including the opening of two new elementary schools in the district and the expansion of pre-K.

She also sought to keep lines of communication open with her constituents. To that end, she maintains an active presence in district schools, holds weekend office hours, distributes her cell phone number, and attends community events in addition to school board meetings.

A former first-grade teacher, then performance manager advising financial institutions and other businesses on culture, Elrod now devotes her time to the school board and her 7-year-old twin sons. Both attend the MNPS.

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Janeen Kingma

Kingma, who is running as a Republican, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Tennessean.

Todd Pembroke, candidate for Nashville School Board, District 2

Todd Pembroke

Pembroke is running to represent District 2 as a Republican. He comes from a family of educators and decided to run because of his “personal interest” in MNPS. He is the father of three young children and his eldest will start elementary school in Granbery in the fall.

Originally from Florida, Pembroke moved to Nashville in 2003. He opened and runs a branch of Farmers Insurance and is a captain in the Tennessee Army National Guard. He plans to draw on his background in business and the military to be a “problem solver” on a school board with a wide range of perspectives.

“I’m in sales, so I know negotiations are key,” he said. “We need to work together as a board, come together on the same page and work together to find a common solution.”

Pembroke’s priorities include carrying out a comprehensive audit of the budget to ensure “tax efficient spending”. He pleads for an increase in the remuneration of support staff. It would also work to improve communication and trust between the school board, parents and teachers, and remove controversial or contentious topics, such as critical race theory and gender identity, from the curriculum.

Critical Race Theory is an academic framework widely taught at the college level and is not taught in metropolitan schools.

Mark Woodward, Nashville District 2 School Board Candidate

Marc Woodward

Woodward is running as a Republican. Director of music and drama at a local Montessori school, he cites his experience as an educator as a key qualification.

“I was a teacher for 11 years,” he said. “I understand classroom budgets, classroom management, the importance of healthy parent/teacher relationships and the incredible potential of students.”

Woodward’s experience in a Montessori school left him concerned that some MNPS policies were “harming” children.

“I think we really need to take the time to look at all the approaches and see what we can do in Nashville that can meet state standards without being negative for kids,” he said. “Keep politics out of the classroom and give kids the gift of a love of learning.”

Woodward’s priorities for the school board include advocating for parents, attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, managing district money responsibly, and adopting best practices for the education of early childhood.

A native of Georgia and a graduate of Belmont University, Woodward worked as a touring musician, producer and songwriter before entering teaching and wrote a musical about the life of Maria Montessori. He lives in southern Davidson County with his wife and six children.

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