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Fifth District School Board candidates go head-to-head

A debate between Karen Carson, incumbent Fifth District Knox County Board of Education representative, and Laurie Alford, her opponent, brought out public concerns in the only contested Board race Thursday, Jan. 17, at Peace Lutheran Church.

The Knox County Parent Teacher Association sponsoreddebate was moderated by former WBIR-TV anchor Bill Williams.

“As you know, this is probably the most important election in Knox County history, at least in modern history. Interestingly enough, there are a lot of candidates for various fee offices and Knox County Commission offices, but there is only one contested race for School Board, and this is it,” he said.

Each candidate was given two minutes for opening and closing remarks, two minutes per question and one minute for the opposing candidate’s rebuttal.

The audience submitted written questions, which were read to the candidates by Williams.

One of the biggest issues, and one of the reasons Alford said she entered the race, was the ever-present issue of school rezoning.

“It was frustrating and disheartening to see hundreds of parents standing there pleading with the Board to just stop and look at what they were really doing to our kids,” Alford said of the recent system-wide school rezoning proposal that passed last year.

“We were talked down to and we were intimidated. It hurt. It moved me deeply and that is one of the reason I am here.”

Carson, who said she would never support a system-wide rezoning in the future, said she felt Alford’s words were intentionally misleading as she was not at the meeting Alford referenced.

“You are not running against the School Board, you are running against me,” she said.

Carson, who is finishing her first term as Fifth District representative, is a mother of three and a nurse at Children’s Hospital.

“I have worked hard with our Board over the last four years to encourage the Board to work together to focus on our kids and their needs and their education.

“The biggest thing I have worked on is communication. Making meaningful two-way communication with all constituents. There are many people who are amazed to find out that they have communicated with me for four years and I am not their representative, because I think it is important that I represent all of the kids in this area and all of the kids in Knox County,” she said.

Alford is the mother of one and a full-time business controller for Tennessee Press Service.

“I am a professional in the business world, I am a mom, I am involved in the community and I am involved in our schools.

“I am not a politician, I am not a great public speaker and I do not have any political, canned answers to give you. But I can tell you that I am here because I care,” she added.

“We need a voice and our voice needs to be heard. We should never have to fight the people we elect to represent us in order to get answers or to get something resolved.”


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