KNOXVILLE — The Sept. 12 school board election features seven candidates competing for four seats with two different term lengths. A game of musical chairs is much easier to explain.

The easier seats to snag involve a more complicated situation. The resignations this spring of Leslie Miller and Mike Helle caused a ripple in the board’s normal seat rotation flow. The terms of Miller and Helle, who were replaced by the appointments of Vickie Reed and Dawn Rankin, would have expired in 2019. State law requires the seats to be included on the 2017 ballot in order to get the rotation order back on track. So while all school board terms are four years long, voters will elect two people to two-year terms.

What’s simple? Only Reed and Andrew Schmidt filed paperwork to serve these unique two-year terms. Their election is likely, unless write-in candidates emerge and win.

Simpler still is a traditional race involving five candidates vying to serve two four-year terms. Marty Duffy, Cheri Gerdes, Rankin, Larry Scott and Darbie Utterback will compete for those seats.

“It is exciting that our district has seven people willing to serve on the board and that are interested in setting our future vision and policies to ensure we are offering the best education to our students,” said Superintendent Cassi Pearson. “Collaboration is key, as the board acts as one entity with five members.”

Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 12 in the board room at the Knoxville Community School District administration building, 309 W. Main St.

The candidates were scheduled to speak at a community forum on Wednesday, Aug. 30, after the deadline for this edition of the Journal-Express. The newspaper invited all seven candidates to provide brief profiles. Due to space limitations, candidates for the two-year terms will be featured in the Sept. 7 edition of the Journal-Express. The candidates for four-year terms are presented here, in alphabetical order:

Martin Duffy

I am a retired teacher of the Knoxville Community School District, where I taught Social Studies for 20 years. I continue to be an advocate for the education of students.

By running for the School Board, I hope to impact the education of all Knoxville students in a positive way. I believe the Knoxville schools have outstanding facilities of which the community and students can be proud. I also believe Knoxville schools have a faculty and staff dedicated to the success of all students at a high level.

The mission of the district is to prepare the students of Knoxville to be college- and career-ready with the 21st Century skills necessary to compete in our world. KCSD needs to continue its partnership with businesses in the community to ensure a culture of excellence for every student. I believe I can be most effective by continuing to ask questions about the decisions the board makes and how they directly influence the education of our students.

If elected, I hope the board will develop organizational support so that every member of the Panther family feels valued for their contribution to the educational process. I wish all students, faculty, and staff of the Knoxville School District a wonderful year of learning, performing, and competition.

Cheri Gerdes

I’m passionate about Knoxville and I’m passionate about education. Good schools are foundational to a community’s success; they’re inter-connected. That means we need strong, forward-thinking individuals sharing a common vision for supporting our children, watching them grow and helping our community prosper. My husband, Nick, and I are personally vested in our school district with two children actively enrolled.

Too many students are struggling to navigate their future beyond graduation. I believe a community mentoring program could help. By matching up our experienced community members with our youth, we’ll add to the guidance our students need to propel them to success after high school.

School resources are limited. We need to tap into our own community for help. Let’s establish an online volunteer website where the community can get directly involved in helping our school district.

Our teachers deserve a listening ear. If elected, I want to visit classrooms to comprehend more fully a teacher’s daily challenges.

Our students are bombarded with information overload in this high-tech world, often overwhelmed and underprepared to handle situations. I want to provide students with connections to people who can assist and guide them.

The culture of our school system needs attention; let’s restore a positive attitude within both schools and our community. It’s time for a “reboot”.

I’m a pharmacist and a mom, and an analytical thinker. Often asked to find rational solutions to tough problems, I pride myself in making decisions based on facts, not emotion. I’m open minded, fair and level-headed, and I can mediate conflicting views. I see the challenges our school district faces. With my ideas, my leadership skills and my problem-solving abilities, I’m confident I can help guide our district in positive ways.

Your vote for me is a vote for Knoxville’s future.

Dawn Rankin

I believe the school system is the life blood of the community and that everyone should contribute to supporting and maintaining it in whatever capacity they can. I feel very strongly that every child should have access to a quality education. Student success should be the overlying goal of the education process. As a board member I would like to see the board develop and strengthen a working relationship with teachers, administrators, and the superintendent based on a joint commitment to student success at all grade levels. Also, to commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction. Monitoring the success of our goals will help to continuously set the bar higher.

I have lived in Knoxville for 25 years. In that time I have been involved with Northstar Elementary PTO for five years, the Knoxville Booster Club for seven years, and currently I am in my fourth year as treasurer for the Knoxville Panther Scholarship Foundation. I have also been a volunteer coach and volunteer stats keeper for soccer. While these opportunities allowed me to contribute to the school system, I feel that by being a member of the school board I can serve the district even better. The current shortfalls in the state budget will undoubtedly have a significant impact on school funding. I feel my 20+ years of corporate accounting experience (B.A. - Accounting, Simpson College) in insurance, construction, public utilities and banking industries will be an asset to the board. Being able to do more with less is only going to become more necessary and challenging in the years ahead. I want to help make sure the students of the Knoxville Community School District have the best opportunities to learn, grow, succeed and be prepared for life beyond high school.

Larry Scott

I’m running for the school board for several reasons. First, I see a hard economic period coming. It will take background in education and business to respond. Having taught and coached for 37 years, I have the expertise and the will to address needs that we’ll face. Working in a bank for nearly 11 years gives me valuable financial experience.

I worked in Missouri schools before coming in 1981 to Knoxville, where I taught until retirement in 2006. I taught art at DMACC until 2016. I’ve worked at Wells Fargo Bank since 2006.

There is a need for a different personality on the board. I can fulfill that need.

The district’s strengths are its students and teachers. Students can improve themselves and the world. Many students have tremendous impact. Our teachers are dedicated to improving students’ lives. No matter when you go by our schools, a teacher will be working. This work enhances our students. It’s important that schools support teachers. Sometimes that means getting out of their way. The strongest part of my career was the creativity that teachers used. We could teach without encumbrance and limits.

School board members should listen to people’s concerns. Students are our primary concern. Parents know what children need. They should be involved in preparing their child for the future. My children graduated from Knoxville. My grandchildren attend school here. I’d like KCSD to be the most desirable district in the state. It’s sad when people disparage their education here. Such people wasted precious time while in school, while I can name two KHS graduates who became Rhodes Scholars and several National Merit Finalists. I’d like to instill more pride in being part of this education.

I’d appreciate your support. If elected, I’ll help make this district one Knoxville can be proud of.

Darbie Utterback

I am a 1987 graduate of Knoxville High School and a lifelong resident of Knoxville. My two children are also graduates of Knoxville schools, Katie in 2013 and Joey in 2016. I have been employed by 3M Manufacturing in Knoxville for 20 years as a Quality and Training Supervisor and Lead Internal Auditor. I previously served on two KCSD committees: Facilities Advisory Committee and Learning in the 21st Century.

I am excited for the mission and goals the district has set: Ensuring a Culture of Excellence for Every Student by Being a Leader in 21st Century Learning and Being a Caring Community. I also believe that meeting those goals may be one of the challenges the district will face – the reason for this viewpoint is that “excellence for every student” does not look the same for every student. I want to do all I can to ensure the needs of every student is met to the best of the district’s ability. I believe we have left a huge gap in this area with the closure of the GOAL Alternative School.

Other issues facing the district include student and teacher retention along with the biggest challenge, budget constraints. I believe that my career has prepared me well for the position of a school board member. As a board member we will be presented with information, and I vow that my decisions will be based off of that information, I will ask questions and I will not be afraid to vote against the majority if I do not feel that it is in the best interest of our students, faculty and community.

I humbly ask for your support and thank you in advance for having faith in me to represent you.