published Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Donna Horn, Jonathan Welch join 2 returning to school board

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Retired teacher Donna Horn beat retired teacher and principal Ralph Miller in a close race for the District 7 seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education.

Signal Mountain dentist Jonathan Welch also will grab a seat on the board after a failed write-in attempt from challenger Mike Harvey. Two-term incumbent Rhonda Thurman will keep her District 1 seat. Of the three races, Thurman won by the widest margin.

District 4 school board representative George Ricks was unopposed and will serve another four-year term.

In the District 7 race, Horn took 57 percent of the 5,513 votes cast, while Miller garnered 43 percent. Current District 7 board member Linda Mosley did not seek re-election.

District 7 was home to a major rezoning of schools this spring. Both candidates said they opposed school administrators' rezoning process and plans.

Horn, 61, taught in Hamilton County Schools for more than two decades, while Miller's experience varied between Tennessee and Georgia public schools. He recently retired from Boyd-Buchanan School.

Horn said the campaign was hard-fought.

"I'm overwhelmed. I'm almost tearful," she said late Thursday.

In District 2, Erlanger anesthetist Mike Harvey launched his write-in effort just after the April qualifying deadline passed with only Jonathan Welch's name on the ballot. Current District 2 board member Chip Baker did not seek re-election.

Welch, 34, had identified raising the school system's disparate achievement levels as a primary focus for his tenure on the board.

Welch said he's ready to exit campaign mode and get to work on the board. He said he couldn't tell how the race would pan out until the votes were counted.

"We felt good about it, but until the votes came in we didn't have any idea," he said.

Thurman, 55, was elected to the board in 2004 and 2008. A Red Bank High School graduate, she has been a hairdresser for more than 35 years.

Both Thurman and challenger Katherine Benefield characterized each other as political opposites, with starkly contrasting views on charter schools, magnet schools and teachers unions.

Thurman took 75 percent of the vote to Benefield's 25 percent.

"It just humbles me that the people of District 1 want me to represent them and be their voice," Thurman said late Thursday. "I'm always humbled by the voters having confidence in me."

All vote totals, which include federally mandated provisional ballots, are unofficial until certified by the Tennessee Department of Elections.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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