A year of upheaval and controversy ended with major changes on the Hamilton County School Board. With the exception of District 1 representative Rhonda Thurman, each incumbent on the ballot was defeated on Thursday.

Thurman turned back a challenge from Dr. Patti Skates and Jason Moses to win a fourth term.

However, the other incumbents were unable to defeat challengers with strong financial contributions from inside and outside their districts.

Early voting results gave a strong lead to Joe Wingate in District 7, and his lead widened as the evening went on.  He defeated one-term incumbent Donna Horn by a margin of more than 2-1.

The other School Board races were closer, but each resulted in defeat for incumbents.  In District 2, Board Chair Dr. Jonathan Welch lost his bid for a second term to political newcomer Kathy Lennon.  

In District 4, history was made as Tiffanie Robinson, who is white, defeated two-term incumbent George Ricks, winning a seat long held by African-Americans.  Ricks has served as vice chair of the School Board.

The five current board members who were not up for re-election said they understand they need to make major changes as three newcomers join the school board.

"Our communities are wanting change, our communities are wanting people that are going to represent their views and opinions," said Dist. 8 representative David Testerman.

Board member Steve Highlander said he wants to suggest postponing any major decision and wait for the new board members to take office.
The biggest priority for them all is finding a new school superintendent, after Rick Smith stepped down following backlash for the way he handled the Ooltewah rape case.

But does this message of wanting change make any of the current board members nervous about their futures?

"I don't have time to be nervous, I just have to do what I feel to be right," Testerman said.

A common complaint from Testerman and others is disappointment in the low-voter turnout.

The Hamilton County Election Commission reports about 15 percent of eligible voters took part in this election. Typically in an august election the county hopes to see a  voter turnout of more than 20 percent.