The race for the District 7 seat representing southeast Louisville on the Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) is between former 16-year JCPS teacher Sarah Cole McIntosh and former school bus driver Tammy Stewart.
The two are vying for the seat being vacated by Chris Brady, who has decided not to run for a third term.
Sarah Cole McIntosh, 41, is a parent to two JCPS elementary school students. Now a stay-at-home mom, McIntosh taught middle and high school social studies in JCPS for 16 years. She has also served on the School-Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) for her children’s school for the last four years and volunteers with the PTA. She is a Doss High School graduate and has her bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Louisville.
This is McIntosh’s first time seeking office. She told WFPL News she sees running for school board as “the next logical step to be able to take that advocacy to the next level.”
“And having worked in the classroom for so long, I do understand what the needs of the students are,” said McIntosh, who cites her understanding of the school environment and knowledge of school budgets and finance as her strengths.
McIntosh said the main challenges facing JCPS stem from pressures outside the school system that impact student achievement, including growing poverty, homelessness and community violence.
“What we have to do is work with our community leaders, because most of the problems facing our students are not things that the schools can control,” she said.
In addition, she said she would advocate for expanding the Academies of Louisville, which offer career pathways for students by partnering with local businesses.
“I think that we can expand on that model to include more and more career choices and career paths for students,” she said, noting she would like to add a pathway in entrepreneurship.
When it comes to racial equity, McIntosh said she thinks curriculums need to be more culturally responsive, and that teacher preparation programs need to do a better job of preparing teachers for diverse classroom environments.
One hot-button issue this election is the 9.5% property tax increase the school board passed in May. The increase may be subject to a recall vote on the November ballot depending on the outcome of pending litigation.
“I am personally going to vote in favor of it,” McIntosh said. “I feel that I’m very respectful and understanding, however, of those who are not because they’re concerned about their, you know, their mortgage increasing or the financial burden that it’s going to place on them.”
Her opponent, former JCPS bus driver Tammy Stewart, opposes the tax increase. Stewart did not respond to multiple interview requests from WFPL News. The information included is from her campaign’s Facebook page.
“Many Kentuckians are suffering right now financially due to the pandemic,” Stewart said in a video livestreamed on her Facebook page. Rather, Stewart said she would focus on cost-cutting measures.
She falsely cited ending “busing,” which JCPS has long relied on to integrate schools, as one way to reduce costs. The district is already planning to reduce the number of students bused across town, but it will not save money. Instead, it will cost the district hundreds of millions of dollars more because JCPS will have to build new schools in the West End.
According to the Courier Journal, Stewart has expressed anti-immigrant sentiments on Facebook, calling undocumented immigrants “rapists,” “murderers” and “pedophiles,” and she has shared a link calling the coronavirus a “government experiment.”
In another Facebook video posted to her campaign page, she advocates for returning to in-person classes.
“We need to get our kids back to school. Now. It needs to open up completely. We need to open up. Open it all up!” she said. “We’re all going to die from something.”
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue to climb in Kentucky, with Jefferson County listed as orange on the state’s dashboard, signaling an “accelerated” spread health experts say is too dangerous for full in-person classes.
Three of seven seats on the school board are up for election this fall. In District 2, musician and parent Jody Hurt is challenging incumbent Chris Kolb. Joe Marshall is running unopposed in District 4.
Election Day is Nov. 3. Early voting is already underway. You can find your polling location and hours here.