Metro Nashville School Board member Gini Pupo-Walker announced Thursday night that she would not stand for re-election this year.
Pupo-Walker represents District 8 of the school board, which currently includes parts of Belle Meade, Hillsboro and Percy Priest. But this is subject to change depending on the proposed redistribution through the Metro Council.
The Pupo-Walker’s seat will be the only one of the four candidates to be re-elected without an incumbent this year.
Board members Rachael Anne Elrod, John Little and Fran Bush are also running for re-election. The Tennessean confirmed that all three plan to show up to keep their seats.
Pupo-Walker said in an email to voters on Thursday night that she had many reasons not to stand for re-election and “complicated feelings about the decision.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a bandwidth issue,” Pupo-Walker told Tennessean. “My ability to take care of my parents is getting more and more difficult with each passing year and I think passing the baton on to someone with fresh legs is a good idea and I think the others should serve.”
Pupo-Walker, who is also State Director for The Education Trust in Tennessee, was elected in 2018. At the time, she was Senior Director of Education Programs and Policy for Conexion Americas. Pupo-Walker is a graduate and former Metro Nashville Public School educator, and her children are district alumni.
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Pupo-Walker won his seat by a large margin over his Adam Barese, owner of a medical distribution company, with nearly double the votes Barese received.
Pupo-Walker received 8,380 votes against 4,925 for Barese.
She said she was proud of the accomplishments of the board during her tenure, calling it a “deep experience.”
“I am very proud that we were able to bring Adrienne Battle and appoint her Director of Schools,” she said. “I am very proud of the culture we have built on this board.”
Since 2018, the board has faced a tumultuous turnover of superintendents, a devastating tornado, school closures, the death of then-president Anna Shepherd and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pupo-Walker was instrumental in adding two student members to the school board and, as often, spoke out on controversial topics such as gun violence and critical race theory, but she was also criticized for supporting the district’s universal mask tenure, the school last year. closures and its position of often common ground on charter schools.
“We have not let the pandemic divide us and I feel a special connection with this board of directors because we are under such scrutiny and that glare can be really intimidating at times,” she told the Tennessean.
“I know we are all preparing for a third year of this pandemic and we wonder what this will mean for our families, our work and our community,” she said. “I am concerned about the impact of omicron on our return to school next week, but please know that we will keep our heads down and work together to support our students and staff to the best of our ability.”
Pupo-Walker’s announcement comes just weeks after the Davidson County Democratic and Republican parties opted to hold partisan primaries at this year’s school board races.
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New state law passed in October’s special COVID-19 legislative session allows county parties to choose whether to hold primaries for school board elections – just as the country’s conservatives prepare to win seats in local school boards.
Tennessee school board elections have traditionally been non-partisan; and the nine members of the Nashville board of directors wrote to the two Davidson County parties asking them not to call partisan elections.
Pupo-Walker said that aspect did not factor into his decision. If she had run again, she would have run as a “proud Democrat,” she told the Tennessean, but she had already made up her mind before the parties voted.
Pupo-Walker plans to remain committed to the board until her last day in August, she said, and will continue to work in education thereafter.
The Education Trust is an influential player in the current Tennessee statewide school funding review process and often weighs in on state policy decisions.
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The qualification deadline for school board candidates is February 17. The primary elections will take place on May 3 and the general elections on August 4.
Pupo-Walker said in her email that it was important for her to share this news now “so that people in District 8 who wish to come forward have time to plan and launch a campaign.”
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Meghan Mangrum is covering education for the USA TODAY – Tennessee Network. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.