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Chris Caldwell

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Chris Caldwell
Chris Caldwell.jpg
Board member, Shelby County Board of Education, District 1
Term ends
Elections and appointments
Last electionAugust 7, 2014
First electedAugust 2012
Next generalAugust 2018
Term limitsN/A
Place of birthMemphis, TN
ProfessionFinancial consultant
Office website
Chris Caldwell campaign logo

Chris Caldwell is the District 1 incumbent on the Shelby County Board of Education in Tennessee. He defeated challenger Freda Garner Williams in the general election on August 7, 2014. This election was a rematch, as Caldwell defeated Williams in 2012.


Caldwell is a financial consultant and vice president at Raymond James, a financial services company. He has served on numerous committees, including: the Shelby County Board of Education Audit Committee, the Internal Board Operations Committee, the Community Engagement Committee, the Facilities Committee and the Superintendent Selection Process Committee, in addition to the Superintendent Selection Committee. He is married to Cheryl; the couple has three children that attend Shelby County Schools.[1]



See also: Shelby County Schools elections (2014)


The August 7, 2014, general election ballot for District 1 included incumbent Chris Caldwell and challenger Freda Garner Williams. The District 3 ballot included challengers Teddy King, Anthony Lockhart and Stephanie Love. The District 5 ballot included challengers Scott McCormick and David Winston. The District 6 ballot included incumbent Shante K. Avant and Jimmy Warren. The District 9 ballot included challengers Roshun Austin, Mike Kernell and Damon Curry Morris. Candidate Miska Clay Bibbs and incumbent William E. Orgel ran unopposed in Districts 7 and 8, respectively.


Shelby County Schools, District 1, 4-year term, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngChris Caldwell Incumbent 55.7% 3,109
     Nonpartisan Freda Garner Williams 44.3% 2,477
Total Votes 5,586
Source: Fox Memphis, "Unofficial Results," accessed August 7, 2014 These election results are unofficial. They will be updated once certified election results are available.


Caldwell received a total of $180.00 and spent a total of $180.00 as of March 31, 2014, according to the Shelby County Election Commission.[2]


Caldwell was endorsed by Stand for Children Tennessee.



Shelby County Schools, District 1 General Election, 2-year term, August 2, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngChris Caldwell 48.1% 7,045
     Nonpartisan Freda Garner Williams Incumbent 41.3% 6,039
     Nonpartisan Noel Hutchinson Jr. 10.6% 1,548
Total Votes 14,632
Source: Shelby County Election Commission, "Election Summary Report," August 20, 2012

What was at stake?

Issues in the election

Change to nine-member board

After the August 2014 election and beginning September 1, Shelby County Schools will change the size of its board from seven to nine members. The shift is one in a series of four recent changes over the past three years. As a result of a September 2011 court case, a 23-member school board was established. It consisted of all nine members of the legacy Memphis City Schools board and the seven members of the legacy Shelby County Schools board, in addition to seven new school board members appointed by the Shelby County Commission. The appointments for the seven new positions were pending school board elections in 2012. However, according to a Memphis Daily News article about the shift, confusion ensued after that establishment was made. The following excerpt from that article explains the series of subsequent events in detail:[3]

In the same 2011 settlement, [U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays] approved a plan that gave the County Commission the ability to expand the merger school board to up to 13 members.

The commission, through its attorneys, sought the power to do that to give the school board the same set of district lines as the commission, which through a ruling in an unrelated Shelby County Chancery Court lawsuit converts to 13 single-member districts with the 2014 elections.

But the 13-district school board plan approved by the commission didn’t correspond to the new County Commission district lines. There were some minor changes the commission approved for the school board in order to keep the seven school board incumbents in separate districts so that no two incumbents would have to run against each other.

And when the commission sought to appoint the six new school board members, the other parties in the sprawling federal lawsuit disagreed, with the dispute going to Mays to settle.

Mays ruled that while he approved the part of the settlement that said the school board could be expanded to up to 13 members, he never said the commission could appoint the six new members to carry off the expansion. He ordered that the seats be filled with the winners of the August 2014 elections for those seats taking office on Sept. 1.

Then the commission changed the 13-district plan to a nine-district plan with districts covering the city of Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County but not the six suburban cities and towns, which by then were on their way to forming separate school systems.

Mays’ approval this week of that plan scrambles the filing period for school board candidates that has been underway since January and has an April 3 filing deadline.

Several candidates had pulled qualifying petitions based on the 13-district school board plan.

With the April 3 filing deadline still in place, the August election ballot will now have seven school board races. The school board incumbents holding the District 2 and District 4 seats – Teresa Jones and board Chairman Kevin Woods – will continue to serve the four-year terms they were elected to in 2012.

The Districts 1, 6, 8 and 9 board members elected in August will be elected to full four-year terms. The winners in Districts 3, 5 and 7 will serve one-time-only terms of two years in order to stagger the terms of office on the school board, which is required under state law. [4]

Issues in the district

Memphis and Shelby County merger

In August 2011, a federal judge ruled that all public schools in Memphis would be consolidated with those in the surrounding Shelby County area to form Shelby County Schools. Under Tennessee law, school districts are under county jurisdiction. However, in the 1800s, Memphis City School District had gotten special permission to become its own school district. In December 2010, the district gave up its charter, and thus prompted the merger of the two districts.

The ruling came after the county had filed a lawsuit, Board of Education of Shelby County v. Memphis City Board of Education, stating that they were opposed to the merger because 87 percent of the city students were considered "low-income." By contrast, Shelby County is made up of mostly white, middle-class students. As a result, the county worried about the added responsibility of funding the city schools in an oppressed economy. The merger was completed at the start of the 2013-2014 school year, with Shelby County becoming responsible for funding both school systems. At the time, officials considered the merger one of the largest school consolidations in recent history.[5][6][7]

About the district

See also: Shelby County Schools, Tennessee
Shelby County Schools is located in Shelby County, Tennessee
Shelby County School District is located in Shelby County, Tennessee. The county seat of Shelby County is Memphis. Shelby County is home to 927,644 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau.[8] Shelby County Schools is the largest school district in Tennessee, serving 157,375 students during the 2011-2012 school year.[9]


Shelby County overperformed in comparison to the rest of Tennessee in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 28.7 percent of Shelby County residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 23.5 percent for Tennessee as a whole. The median household income in Shelby County was $46,251 compared to $44,140 for the state of Tennessee. The poverty rate in Shelby County was 20.2 percent compared to 17.3 percent for the entire state.[8]

Racial Demographics, 2012[8]
Race Shelby County (%) Tennessee (%)
White 42.6 79.3
Black or African American 53.1 17.0
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.3 0.4
Asian 2.5 1.6
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.1 0.1
Two or More Races 1.4 1.6
Hispanic or Latino 5.9 4.8

Presidential Voting Pattern, Shelby County[10]
Year Democratic Vote Republican Vote
2012 232,443 135,649
2008 256,297 145,458
2004 216,945 158,137
2000 190,404 141,756

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one- or two-tenths off from being exactly 100 percent.[11] This Ballotpedia page provides a more detailed explanation of how the Census Bureau handles race and ethnicity in its surveys.

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