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Who We Elect: School Boards

52 minutes

Our #WhoWeElect series continues with a focus on school boards. School boards set the vision of your local school district, hire and evaluate the school superintendent, approve the budget, set spending priorities, approve vendor contracts and can even make decisions on curriculum or the textbooks schools will use. L. Joy brings Tomeka Hart to the front of the class to discuss her previous role as an elected school board member in Memphis and more.

#FirsCivicActionOut guest, Tomeka Hart shares her #FirstCivicAction as a high school senior. She decided she would, with no experience, run for senior class treasurer.

Our Guest

Tomka Hart serves as a Senior Program Officer, US Policy, Advocacy and Communications for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading grant making to civil rights and equity organizations.

She previously served as the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Institutional Advancement for the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), leading and supporting SEF’s work to improve student outcomes from early childhood to adulthood, helping the CEO and staff to implement a broad range of advocacy, research, and coalition building activities across the Southern region.

Prior to SEF, she served as the Vice President of African American Community Partnerships for Teach for America, where she was responsible for building alliances within the African American community, including civil rights groups, policy organizations, HBCUs, and media outlets. Prior to joining Teach For America, Hart served as the president and CEO of the Memphis Urban League. She is a former middle/high school teacher, and a former labor/employment lawyer.

Hart served two terms on the elected Memphis City Schools Board of Education, serving 2005-2013. She served as Board President 2008-2009. In 2010, Hart joined with a colleague and led the efforts to merge the Memphis City and Shelby County school systems.

In 2011 Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam appointed Hart as a Commissioner of the Education Commission of the States, a national non-partisan organization that helps states develop education policies. Former Tennessee Governor, Phil Bredesen, selected her for Tennessee’s Race to the Top team, and he appointed her to the state’s Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee, and the First to the Top Advisory Council.

Hart is an Aspen Institute Rodel-Fellowship in Public Leadership fellow and a Pahara-Aspen Institute Education Fellow, and has served on several non-profit boards.

Tomeka Hart holds a B.S. degree in Marketing Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; an M.B.A. from Kennesaw State University; and a J.D. from the University of Memphis.

Reading List
School Boards and School Board Elections - Ballotpedia


The Governance Core: School Boards, Superintendents, and Schools Working Together
The Essential School Board Book: Better Governance in the Age of Accountability
The Art of School Boarding: What School Board Members Need to Know


What Does a School Board Do?
What Every Parent Should Know About Their School Board
Demystifying School Boards

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