Kelli Phillips, Candidate, School Board

The Tennessean editorial board asked candidates first to interview Nashville School Board candidates for the Davidson County primary on May 3. Winners of partisan contests and independents are now contesting the August 4 county general election. Early voting began on July 15.

After:Learn About the Candidates in Tennessee’s Aug. 4 Primary Election | Editorial

Biographical information

  • Last name: Kelly Phillips
  • Age: 44
  • City or town: Nashville
  • Education: Harpeth Hall Class of 96. UTR Knoxville 96-99, MTSU 99-2001
  • Employment history: Daycare owner and construction manager. Now a full time mom.
  • Family: Two sons (3 and 20) and a daughter (sweet 16).

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10 questions to the candidate

Which office are you running for?

Nashville School Board, District 4

Why are you running for this office?

The vast majority of our school board is out of touch with parents’ views and needs, so I’m running to put parents back in control of our schools. I am for removing mask mandates, focusing on better grades and banning extreme politics in our classrooms such as Critical Race Theory (CRT) and discussion of topics that should be discussed at the House.

Parents have rallied against unscientific mask mandates in the classroom which have become a huge barrier to learning – especially for children with learning needs like my son, who has a speech impairment. Seeing our children unable to compete in their sports as neighboring counties were back on the field was heartbreaking.

As the proud “mama-bear” of three children who use our public schools, I will speak on behalf of the many parents who want our schools to go back to basics and focus on improving grades in math, writing, in reading and science. – rather than wasting time on political issues like critical race theory.

The tip of the iceberg is that in 36 of our schools, less than 10% of students take grade-level math tests. Of these 36 schools, 19 schools have less than 5% of students tested at grade level. This document reported to readers that last summer, metropolitan schools saw a 6.3 percentage point drop from 25.9% in 2019 to 19.6% of students resting on track in reading. . Despite the hard work of students and teachers, this cannot continue and we need change at the top with leaders willing to focus on the core subjects and job skills that lead to well-paying, much-needed business jobs.

What makes you qualified for this position and better qualified than your opponent(s)?

I believe I am better qualified for this position than my opponent because I am in touch with what parents want. Nothing is more important than that in an elected role. A tip from many self-proclaimed “experts” got us into the hole we are in now.

Parental power is what is needed. In business, they would call it finding someone who knows “the voice of the customer.” My opponents have lost touch with the people who matter most in this election – the parents – the ultimate guardian of their child(ren) and their needs.

Parents know what is best for their children and should have the ability to decide what their children are exposed to in the classroom and what they are taught. My opponents side with a party that disagrees with this and will only listen to the big bucks and political interests such as teachers’ unions. Their record of waste and arrogance speaks for itself.

My opponent cannot speak credibly about the need for adequate school funding and better paid teachers and staff. They have lost the trust of community actors and the authorities who fund us. It’s because they wasted resources during the pandemic and refused to investigate troubling incidents that this document highlighted – like $14 million on “COVID Consultants” – one of which posted a photo thanking the school board for a ‘good year’ with his hands behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

Actions speak louder than words, and from ignoring the cries of parents to wasting our taxpayers’ money, my opponents clearly care only about their egos and staying in power. If elected, I will represent parents first and foremost.

If you are elected (or re-elected), what are your 2 to 3 priorities for your new (or next) mandate?

If elected, my main priorities are:

  1. Steer the curriculum away from CRT and political correctness and focus it on core subjects – math, English, science and technology.
  2. Remove unscientific mask mandates and support a return to classroom learning in the event of future outbreaks.
  3. Develop and nurture new and better ways to stay connected with the voice of parents so that we never have such an out of touch school board again.

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What do you hear most from voters about what they want you to accomplish, if elected?

Voters tell me they want schools to focus on the basics – core subjects like math, English and science – and get politics out of the classroom so their children can thrive . They want a school board with teachers empowered to teach without political or ideological interference. Mask mandates must become a thing of the past – and we must hold people accountable for wasting millions of dollars during the pandemic.

Legislatures, including Tennessee’s, have banned the teaching of “diversifying” subjects in K-12 schools. What is your opinion on these measures and how would you like the local school board to address the lessons that might make some parents uncomfortable?

I believe we need to impose a ban on CRT and radical politics in our schools. We all have a duty to address sensitive issues such as racism and sexuality – but it should be done at home, not in the classroom.

My opponent was quick to say that no extremism is taught in our classrooms – but that is not the reality parents hear from us. This document, for example, reported incidents with children as young as 4th graders being told to pretend to be slaves, resulting in a lawsuit.

The “Wit and Wisdom” program chosen by MNPS is diluted by too much political content and was initially rejected by the Tennessee review body. These are facts that cannot be avoided. Across the United States, communities like ours are demanding that we get back to basics and focus on nurturing young minds — not indoctrinating them.

As Tennessee revises the education funding formula, what is your position on its approach and what, if anything, would you recommend it do differently?

We must always fight for our fair share of funds so that we have first-class facilities to teach – and well-paid educators. If the education formula doesn’t affect all kids who need support, they won’t have the resources to be career-ready as Nashville booms.

However, when it comes to the current board and my opponents, actions speak louder than words. They failed to act as good gatekeepers and spent $14 million on ineffective COVID consultants during the pandemic.

When they refused to investigate the issues on this, they said – in all words – that they don’t care about being seen as responsible leaders and can’t be trusted with the public funds. When they act like that, children end up suffering.

What else do you want voters to know about you to help them make an informed decision on Election Day?

I want to thank everyone for being involved in the political process, no matter who they vote for on August 4th. I would be honored to have your vote and recognize that Democrat, Independent or Republican, all voters want our children to succeed.

A lot will be said in this election, and again I would point out that other than Fran Bush in District 6, current school board members have not lived up to their words about supporting children and teachers with the actions we would expect to follow that like spending taxpayer dollars carefully and ending mask mandates.

We have a board full of self-proclaimed “experts” who have overseen falling ratings. Few of them respect the opinions of parents. Talking is cheap – but getting back to basics and focusing on key topics rather than political education is the main way to move forward and restore a well-functioning school system that people trust. Please contact me via to find out more. Thanks for your consideration!

For all applicants: A “fun” question: When visitors ask you, “What should I do in Nashville? What are the 2 or 3 best things or places you recommend?

For food: Loveless Cafe for breakfast, Opryland Hotel at Christmas, and SATCO or San Antonio Taco Company for a summer evening. To see: The historical Hermitage museum – home of our 7th president.

Will you commit to being civil in how you present yourself and how you interact with opponents and others? (Our definition of civility is being a good, active, honest and respectable citizen)


Call Opinion and Engagement Director David Plazas at (615) 259-8063, email him at [email protected] or tweet him at @davidplazas.

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