School board candidates respond to Chamber survey


The Chamber of Commerce serving Johnson City, Washington County and Jonesborough, with input from its Governmental Relations Council, recently surveyed the candidates seeking seats on the Johnson City School Board.

The Chamber is pleased to present the results of the survey and trusts you will rely on these responses as you determine who should represent us on the Johnson City School Board. Early voting begins Oct. 14 and ends Oct. 29 with Election Day set for Nov. 3. Please vote and exercise this freedom. The Chamber wishes to thank the candidates for their willingness to run and serve.

Candidates: Ginger Carter; Kenneth Herb Greenlee; Jonathan Kinnick; David Linville; Beth Simpson; Paula Treece; Matt Wilhjelm

Candidates were asked to limit their answers to 50 words or less.

1. What are your three main reasons for seeking a seat on the School Board and what distinguishes you from the other candidates?

Carter: 1. Provide quality education for all 2. Improve safety measures on school campuses. 3. Ensure that all processes are as efficient as possible. Education has always been a part of my life and continues to be as a mother and an associate professor at ETSU College of Medicine.


Greenlee: a. Provide creative ways of using our finances b. Share in the construction of continued educational plans during the panademic. c. Expand our school buildings and classrooms where necessary Having 50 years of monitoring school children, 8 years within the truancy department. Presently, Carver Recreation Center Director, I feel very qualified to…


Kinnick: I analyze systems and find solutions for a living, and I’d like to continue doing this for our schools. I want to help teachers and students succeed by continuing to ensure they have the necessary resources. I have the skills/commitment to do the job. I’m the longest-serving incumbent running.



Linville: I am passionate about education and believe strong representation on the school board is critical to the continued success of our school system. My experience as an educator and educational leader sets me apart. I seek to serve so we may continue to build on a foundation of excellence.


Simpson: My candidacy is motivated by a desire to serve our community, to provide level-headed leadership, and to help JCS continue to expand its mission to enable all students to achieve excellence. My experience as a parent, volunteer, and as a former teacher helps distinguish my candidacy.



Treece: To ensure the students are educated to the highest standards.; Educating our students is ensuring our future.; Making our community better I have worked advocating for students at the local and state level through my 15 years of PTA leadership in our schools.




Wilhjelm: Thankfully, we have a talented field of school board candidates. As a businessperson with 15 years of senior financial leadership, I bring to the board a background in strategic thinking, decision making, and the ability to hear all sides of complex issues to set policy. At my core, I am…


2. Do you feel all students are receiving an optimal education in our system? If not, what needs to change?

Carter: I do feel like Johnson City has a fantastic public school system. I always think improvements could be made and want to help facilitate positive changes for both students and teachers. Education is always evolving. We need to be ready to make appropriate adjustments and changes to optimize our education.

Greenlee: Yes, I feel that our children are currently receiving an optimal education however, the duty of the board is to always work toward ways and means of continual optimal educational improvements that allow each student a chance to succeed.

Kinnick: Yes, they are. Our administrators and teachers are always looking for potential improvements for educating our students. This pandemic has shown our resilience, creativeness, and expertise in unprecedented times, as we continue to strive to offer the best education possible.

Linville: The mission of our school system is “to enable all students to achieve excellence in learning, social responsibility, and self-worth.” I worry especially in these challenging times certain students are at greater risk for not achieving their fullest potential. We must continually address roadblocks to ensure all students’ success.

Simpson: JCS works hard to meet the difficult objective of enabling all students to achieve excellence. Regardless of effort, some students will have unmet needs. Creating opportunities for self-assessment and increasing avenues for communication from the community can ensure that opportunities are expanded and improved for all students.

Treece: No. I believe education starts at home. The importance of education needs to be stressed from a very early age both at home and in our schools. We need to work towards finding the best way to educate each student which is its own challenge.

Wilhjelm: As a community, we should all be proud the Johnson City School System ranks as one of the tops in the state. That is a testament to the work of our teachers, staff, administrators, and the Board. That said, I do not believe there is an educator in the system…

3. What do you feel should be the school board’s role during post-pandemic recovery? (i.e. virtual education be incorporated into curriculum, plans for future disruption needed?)

Carter: The Johnson City Board of Education needs to get things back to “normal” as soon as we can. Education at this level is not ideal in the virtual setting. Our children need socialization and interaction to properly develop. They need to physically be in a classroom with teachers and friends.

Greenlee: The Board should work toward the safety of the staff, teachers, and the students. Virtual education should be incorporated into the curriculum with the necessary equipment needed in place to be sure that each student can be properly taught. The School Board should prepare ahead for pandemics or other disruptions.

Kinnick: We are already planning to offer remote (in-home) learning as a permanent option for our students going forward, as some students may need that for reasons besides a pandemic. This pandemic has given us a template for disruptions in general, and then we would fine-tune it to a specific circumstance.

Linville: The school board’s role is to ensure the system has the necessary resources to fulfill its mission. As we move through the pandemic, realizing we are not yet near a post-pandemic recovery, providing exceptional remote education is critical. This requires ongoing commitment to technology resources and professional development.

Simpson: The board’s role in the coming years will be critical. With yet unknown social and economic ramifications, the board must make level-headed fiscal and educational decisions. This should include wise allocation of funds, appropriate use of virtual education, and sensible contingency plans.

Treece: Our ultimate goal is to have every student back in school full time. The best education is in-person education, but we need to incorporate virtual learning for those students who have medical issues. We had systems in place before the pandemic for that type of learning and need to continue.

Wilhjelm: Valuing “Kids First”, the Board’s role is to create learning opportunities for students – regardless of circumstances. How we educate our children today looks different than it ever has before. We need to listen to the desires of the community, heed expert health guidance, and with that framework create the…

4. How can the school system better prepare students to meet the needs of our area employers?

Carter: I think engaging local businesses in more co-op programs would be great. I think it is difficult for a teenager to know what he/she wants to do with the rest of their life. More exposure to local business opportunities would better equip our children to plan for their future.

Greenlee: The School System should allow businesses to plan Job Fairs, and Job Shadowing events, to display the types of programs available to those students who will decide what field of employment they are interested in.

Kinnick: Employers need individuals who can work with a team, use creativity and critical thinking to do problem solving, and have good oral and written communication skills. These skills need to be taught in both college-oriented and vocational classes, along with how to apply them in the real world.

Linville: Nearly two thirds of individuals will require some type of credential, certificate, or degree after high school to meet the needs of employers. Our school system must remain positioned to provide students with skills not only for entry work after high school but also for continuing their education.

Simpson: Our region’s success is dependent on JCS preparing students to be college-and-career ready. Continued support for vocational education and continued improvement to the curriculum that promotes critical thinking skills across all disciplines is vital.

Treece: Students are best prepared when they have been given the tools for a good solid education. We need to have paths for both vocational/technical and academic pursuits as local employers need both types of workers to function effectively.

Wilhjelm: Preparing children to become open-minded, well-functioning adults who are ready for the workforce is primary to our educational priorities. The economy of today and tomorrow rewards life-long learners. Furthermore, when the children who are entering school today graduate college, they will be competing for jobs not against folks from upper-east…

5. Please identify measures that could enhance the education of the students in the Johnson City School System that would not materially increase the cost of educating them?

Carter: In any endeavor, I think budget reviews are crucial to success. Ensuring that services provided are effective and not duplicated may open new opportunities for success without requiring any extra money. Appropriately distributing dollars already in the budget costs nothing more than time.

Greenlee: It is possible to provide the school system with updated changes using the same dollars that they are spending now, making sure that those dollars are spent on relevant materials that will address the ever changing society that we are living in. We should be ready to supply necessary materials.

Kinnick: Partnerships with area employers and with area colleges could do this. The more exposure students have to classes and experiences related to their interests, the more interested they will be, and the more likely they will be to pick a college or vocational path that they enjoy and excel in.

Linville: Enhancing student education is not just a one and done project. It is a continuous improvement process that is integral to operating schools and student success. The focus should be on closing the gap between high performing and low performing students, an approach that doesn’t have to add cost.

Simpson: Dollars spent do not always equal educational enhancement. Leveraging community partnerships with government, industry, higher education, and non-profits to promote academic goals is one way to expand our educational reach. Further promotion of the JCS Education Foundation can raise funds and our school’s profile in the community.

Treece: Mentoring by having our local businesses and business leaders work with students at all levels and showing them what it takes to succeed in our city as adults. Sometimes just one individual can do amazing things in changing the life of a child.

Wilhjelm: When you are young, connecting how schoolwork translates to your future-self can be a difficult thing to do. I am the benefit of role models and mentors. I support the idea of engaging the community to bring real-world experience into the classroom to support the work of our teachers.

6. Do you favor curriculum changes at any level of the school system?

Carter: I favor a review of the curriculum on an annual basis. Education is not stagnant. New research and facts are continually discovered. We must continue to keep our educational system and processes current with the times. No one can expect to use the same curriculum without adapting to change.

Greenlee: Curriculum changes at any level should be discussed and reevaluated by the board and changes should be made whenever needed and conveyed to other necessary administrative boards, and to the citizens of the city whenever possible.

Kinnick: Curriculum changes are not something to do for the sake of doing, but need to be driven by state requirements, data, college requirements, employer requirements, etc. We make curriculum changes when necessary.

Linville: I support curriculum changes that serve to improve the educational outcomes of all students and advance the school system’s reputation as one of the top performing systems in the state.

Simpson: Curriculum standards should be under routine review. Teachers, administrators, and school boards should cooperate with state officials to analyze, review, and revise curriculum to meet the changing needs of our students and our community.

Treece: Yes, we should always be looking for the best curriculum to teach our students and evolving it as we see best meets the needs of everyone.

Wilhjelm: I still have much to learn about our curriculum and the expectations of Tennessee requirements. That said, to expand on my earlier point, I would support basic life-skills training, particularly in the area of personal finance at the high school level. I believe this is an area where we can…

7. Please identify any aspects of federal or state laws that you consider to be an impediment to operating the Johnson City School System?

Carter: If the Board becomes aware of any federal or state law that is an impediment to operating our school system, then we will address it accordingly.

Greenlee: I am concerned how truancy is viewed. I want to make sure that our youth are in school and getting the education that is needed without having so many days missed from school before court action.

Kinnick: The law that appears to allow the County to collect property taxes from the City, but then not share millions of those dollars with the City when the County uses cash to build new county schools is quite the impediment. Even if it is legal, that doesn’t make it right.

Linville: Certainly, regulations can often add additional, seemingly trivial challenges for our system. More importantly however, I believe unforeseen challenges, for example when Washington County opted for a different approach to fund a new school, are the more worrisome concerns we have to be ready to address.

Simpson: Despite federal and state laws which may hinder or complicate JCS ability to meet community needs, JCS has risen to the challenge of educating all students. However, state tax codes hinder equitable allocations of tax dollars between the city and county creating an impediment to the operations of JCS.

Treece: Fully funding the Basic Education Plan (BEP) by our state government. Currently Tennessee ranks 46 out of 50 in education funding. Our state government hands down unfunded mandates to our school systems and expects that we will be able to fund anything they legislate without first giving us adequate backing.

Wilhjelm: Much has been made about the school voucher system for the State of Tennessee. Because of the great work to date in Johnson City, I believe a voucher program would contradict its intended purpose, and I would adamantly oppose the expansion of the program to our system.

8. Please identify areas of current Board of Education and/or Administration policy that you think should be changed?

Carter: Our schools should not operate like a public park during school hours. There should never be any person on a school campus while in session that cannot be identified. Safety measures need to be tightened on all our school campuses. In addition, schools should never be used as election sites.

Greenlee: All policies should be reviewed, addressed, and reevaluated by the current board and Administration with changes made when and wherever necessary.

Kinnick: Policies are typically reviewed on a rotating schedule and updated at that time or on an as-needed basis. While there is always room for improvement, I do not believe we currently have any areas necessitating significant changes.

Linville: I am not aware of specific policies that currently are problematic. However as with all policies, the board must continue to regularly review and if necessary approve updates as part of the school system’s continuous improvement process.

Simpson: I am in favor of a board and administration who are always assessing and evaluating policy to make sure it aligns with the JCS mission and executes fair and equitably to its constituency.

Treece: I don’t think that there are any policy areas that need to be changed currently. We review all policies every year. The Policy Committee reviews all policies and the recommends changes to the full board and we vote on the changes twice a year.

Wilhjelm: By and large, we have a sound Board and Administration and the results bare it out. Our role on the Board at this time is not to create mass change, but to support and enhance a successful Administration.

9. The School Board is responsible for overseeing the work of the Director of the Johnson City Schools. Please describe your expectations of his performance and his relationship with the Board?

Carter: The School Board should expect our Director of Schools to have high moral standards. He/She must make hard decisions- even when the right choice is not the popular choice. The Director must strive to develop good relationships with faculty, staff, and our entire community.

Greenlee: My expectation is that the director continues to put the student first and seek out relevant educational materials to keep our youth competitive with todays job market.

Kinnick: Our expectations are high, and Dr. Barnett continues to meet those high expectations in all areas. He has a great relationship with the board, both individually and collectively, and he is available, responsive, informative, thorough, etc. when we need information and professional advice to make sound decisions.

Linville: The board’s role in supervising the Director of Schools requires a deliberate partnership where the director and board must hold mutual expectations related to strategy, accountability, and support.

Simpson: The Superintendent and the board must have a harmonious working relationship with clear expectations of standards and performance objectives by which he or she is to be evaluated annually.

Treece: I do believe we have the best Director of Schools in the state of Tennessee. He is a great communicator and strives every day to make our schools better. The Board has high expectations of him and he exceeds those expectations.

Wilhjelm: “Expect the Best”, the motto of our system, applies to our students, our staff, and first and foremost, our administrators. As a professional school administrator, the Director of Schools should be held with the highest expectations. I believe, and this is supported at the State level, our Director of Schools…

10. What’s your perspective on ensuring the safety of our students and teachers?

Carter: My perspective is that we need to do more to ensure the safety of students and teachers. Too many random people are found on school campuses while in session. Our schools should not function like a public park during school hours. This assumes an unnecessary risk for our schools.

Greenlee: All protective measures necessary should be used to protect teachers, students, and staff, in this pandemic world we now live in. Sanitation, hygiene, and other protective measures should be promoted to keep our teachers, students, and staff safe.a plan should be implemented to address this matter,

Kinnick: It’s good! We’re currently in the process of making physical changes at a number of our school buildings to improve safety. Those were a result of our standing Safety Security Committee, which continually reviews matters related to school safety, and our staff has on-going training on safety issues also.

Linville: Providing a safe learning environment in our schools is undeniably one of the primary responsibilities of the system and the board. Safeguarding the safety of our students, teachers, and staff requires continuous reassessment and appropriate allocation of resources.

Simpson: Students and teachers who feel unsafe are unable to work to their best abilities. JCS must provide emotional, social, and physical safety. From ensuring schools have adequate counseling available to regulating school entrance procedures, the system must continually implement and improve research-based policies that ensure safety.

Treece: Our school district has done a phenomenal job over the last several years working on safety issues. We have worked with the Johnson City Police Department to put School Resource Officers in every school to help keep our students safe.

Wilhjelm: Our staff and educators are on the front line of safety of our students – and this is not limited to the on-campus safety of our students. The reality is, during the break from school, in an unheralded manner, our educators were checking on the well-being of students. As a City…

11. What will you do to continue the collaboration between the Chamber and the School Board?

Carter: The key to the success of our schools is community involvement. I am happy to work with the Chamber as a member of the JCBOE to facilitate working relationships to benefit our students and our community. Collaborative projects involving the Chamber and our schools will strengthen our entire community.

Greenlee: Monthly or quarterly meetings should be held between the two board to discuss board issues and community involvement.

Kinnick: Chamber members have invaluable insight as to the skills and abilities our graduates ultimately need, as they are the eventual potential employers. The Chamber and their support of the Youth Leadership and Tennessee Scholars Program are important to our system. I look forward to continued involvement and collaboration.

Linville: The School Board plays a significant leadership role in our community through its relationship with the Chamber and other organizations. Understanding and partnering with the Chamber to address challenges and create opportunities in our business community helps the region grow and prosper.

Simpson: JCS benefits from the chamber’s work in regionalism, economic growth, and workforce development. Continuing the friendly relationship between the school board and the Chamber by supporting their events and maintaining good communication is essential to the entire Appalachian Highlands.

Treece: Our community works better when we have a solid relationship between our leaders, our schools and our businesses. Working with the chamber to build our schools and our student leadership benefits everyone.

Wilhjelm: I believe as previously stated, there is not only room but a need for the business community engagement in our school system. Having deep relationships in the business community, particularly the Chamber, I am positioned to further connect the school system with our business leaders, who every day ask of…


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