Kingsport Board of Education gains two new members after election

A NEW LEADER. Brandon Fletcher, left, sits down for an interview. Fletcher was recently elected to the Kingsport Board of Education alongside Melissa Woods.

Kaitlyn Burrell

A NEW LEADER. Brandon Fletcher, left, sits down for an interview. Fletcher was recently elected to the Kingsport Board of Education alongside Melissa Woods.

Melissa Woods and Brandon Fletcher are two new Kingsport Board of Education members that were recently elected. Both have lived in Kingsport for over 30 years. Woods came to become an accountant while Fletcher works as a registered anesthetist.

As a child, Fletcher moved around a lot. He moved to places such as South Carolina, Texas and California, because his father was a contractor.

“We found ourselves having to travel several times before middle school,” he said.

Fletcher didn’t enjoy travelling at the time, but he now believes it was a good experience in that he was able to develop the ability to be less shy.

“It has helped me to develop an ability to be open to meeting people and not be shy,” he said. “So, I didn’t like it at the time, but it has served me well.”

Woods, on the other hand, never really moved around. She grew up in Elizabethton before moving to Kingsport to work as an accountant with Eastman Chemical Company.

Fletcher and Woods both enjoy living in Kingsport.

“Well, I think it’s a beautiful place to live, first of all, and I think it is pretty safe to live here,” Woods said. “It’s a great place to raise kids. And of course we have fantastic schools. I love living in Kingsport.”

As new members of the Board of Education, Fletcher and Woods will work to have correctly functioning schools. This involves building or shutting down facilities, devising budgets and putting policies in place.

“We work with the superintendent to develop strategic planning and kind of the mission of the schools,” Woods said. “We adopt policies that are state or federal laws, we make sure that we’re in compliance with those laws, we approve school zones, calendars, we approve district safety plans.”

Woods decided to run for the school board because of the type of education Kingsport City Schools provide.

“I love Kingsport and I want to see Kingsport to continue to grow,” she said. “And in order to do that, you have to have exceptional schools. And so I want to be a part of trying to form policies and things that will help our education system continue to improve. I like investing in others.”

Fletcher ran because he wanted to be involved with the success of KCS students, including his own two children.

“I have an 11 year old daughter, a fifth grader, at Jefferson and I have a kindergartener at Jefferson,” Fletcher said. I wanted to make sure that I was involved in the success of not only my kids, but all of the kids of Kingsport city schools. One of the things is that I wanted to make sure that kids continue to have an opportunity to succeed, whether they go to college, whether the college is part of their plan, or whether it’s not.”

For Woods, the best and hardest challenges of getting elected were discussions with the community and other running candidates and getting her message out.

“The most difficult thing was to try to get my message and my heart out to the voters at large for people who may not have known me,” she said. “The best part was having the opportunity to really have a targeted discussion with students, with educators, with parents, just the community at large and even the other candidates about what are great things that are happening in our schools, but also what are some opportunities for improvement in our schools.”

Fletcher agreed. The best part of running for a Board of Education seat was meeting the people directly involved in students’ lives, while the hardest part was sharing his visions on how to help Kingsport City Schools succeed.

“You can have a system in place; it can be the best system in place to make sure the students succeed, but you have to have people in order to implement those things,” he said.

School board members are responsible for changes throughout the school system. An example of this is Sevier’s changeover to the former Sullivan North  building in the next couple years.

“I think that one of the biggest things that we have is, you know, we have a ten year facility plan that is coming up that is going to involve a lot of money,” he said. “[That includes] the restructuring of our schools, the new middle school at the old Sullivan North High School facility, and trying to make sure that we maintain a good relationship with the city.”

For Woods, a key change she would like to see is to increase teacher morale.

“I think a lot of our KCS employees had a really tough time through this pandemic,” she said. “I want teachers to feel valued and supported. They are critical to the success of our students. And there’s no way for our students to really achieve their goals if we’re not supporting our educators in the way that we should, giving them the tools they need, the support they need, to really be creative and be the rock stars that they are.”

Fletcher agreed.

“Our educators are the best at what they do,” he said. “One of my goals is to continue to hire and maintain the best educators possible. Number one, I want to be an advocate for our students. And number two, I want to be an advocate for our educators.”

Woods and Fletcher have some advice for middle school students.

“I just want students to never allow being dealt a bad hand to keep them from playing the game,” Woods said. “For teachers, I just ask them to hang in there; to continue to really pour into our students to realize how valuable they are.”

Fletcher believes that students shouldn’t focus too much on things in their lives that will come later, such as job opportunities.

“The opportunities will come at a later time,” he said. “Just enjoy your time.”