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Voice of a parent

January 9, 2017

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

The August night in which Lisa Moore won a seat on the Rutherford County School Board is a blur.

More than two years later, everything after 8:45 p.m. still seems surreal.

She was relieved and yet exhausted, elated but drained — physically and emotionally.

Moore felt like she was walking in a dream, but — sometime around 10 p.m. — when she finally got in her car, she sat there and cried before driving home. It felt good to be able to finally let go of her feelings — the hard work had paid off and the emotional ups and downs of the past five months were now, as she said, “well worth it.”

For Moore, election night had started around 6 p.m. at the Main Street office of the Rutherford County Republican Party office.

She spent about 90 minutes there tracking the early returns.

When the polls closed at 7:30 p.m., she was “pretty far behind,” and so she left and drove to the Embassy Suites by Hilton.

There was no way she could win. Or so she thought.

As she drove alone to the hotel, where Tennessee Republican Sen. Jim Tracy was holding an election-night watch party, Moore had resigned herself to the idea that she had run a good race and wasn’t going to win. She felt like crying but chose instead to put on a strong, brave face.

Once inside, she wasn’t even following the results on TV.

By then, Moore was enjoying a few post-campaign moments with a couple of her dear friends, who had supported her through all the trials and tribulations of a difficult campaign in which she faced two strong candidates “with roots and ties” to Rutherford County that ran longer and deeper than hers.

“I was still very prayerful there might be a chance,” Moore recalled.

Her prayers were answered.

Just before 9 p.m. she felt someone put their hand her shoulder. What happened next played out like a dramatic scene in a movie but in super-slow motion.

“You need to go look at the final results,” he said. “You won the school board race.”

The emotions that came with the idea of winning were overwhelming. She thought, surely no one would be so cruel as to play a joke like that. The race had been long and difficult, but the news of winning was quickly becoming a reality.

Moore won by 55 votes.

The other two candidates were within two votes of one another.

“It was unbelievable,” said Moore, who described the campaign as tough, but she was blessed and added that winning “was a God-thing.”

“I was already thinking ahead to what I was going to need to do moving forward to be an effective member of the school board,” said Moore, who then thought about the hours spent walking and putting up signs in the July heat.

As taxing as that might have been, Moore added, “Now the real work began.” 

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More was born and raised in East Tennessee, where she graduated from Oak Ridge High School before moving to Murfreesboro to attend Middle Tennessee State University.

She originally majored in mass communication before pursuing management and psychology.

Like thousands of others who found their way to Middle Tennessee, Moore never left.

She met her future husband, Scott Moore, while the two were in college, and eventually they married and established their own family here in Murfreesboro. They will have been married 31 years in March and have two sons — Jeremy, 25, a graduate of MTSU with a degree in criminal justice, and Jacob, who is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program at Oakland High School.

“I’m a baseball mom,” said Moore, whose youngest son plays ball for the Patriots. “There’s nothing I love more than sitting in the bleachers watching my son play baseball.”

Before pursuing a seat on the Rutherford County School Board, Moore spent the better part of a 30-year career working in staffing and human resources.

As a junior in college, Moore interned at a local community newspaper that led to an offer from the Daily News Journal to sell ads. While selling ad space to the owner of the first temporary staffing agency in town, Moore and Mary Armour “hit it off.”

Armour offered Moore a job with Human Resources Inc.

“I really got in on the ground floor with her and learned my craft or my trade, if you will, as far as human resources,” Moore said.

She spent five years with Human Resources Inc. – “it felt like it was a better training than book studies” – until Armour sold the company and then went to work for Stanley Tools, in nearby Shelbyville, as an assistant personnel manager.

Two years later, a former co-worker, opened a new staffing company, The Holland Group, in Murfreesboro and asked Moore to run it for him.

She was there for nearly 20 years.

The Holland Group grew from being a small “one store mom-and-pop shop” to having more than 40 offices in nine states. Moore went from managing one office to managing several branches.

Moore, who advanced to the role of vice president, eventually became more involved with risk management, worker’s compensation, employment litigation and handled all the insurance issues for the agency.

Those are the skills that now serve her as a school board member of a large corporate-like district with 46 schools and more than 5,000 employees.

In 2007, she stayed in human resources but transitioned away from staffing. In 2015, not long after being elected to the school board, she made another professional change.

Moore had always wanted to own her own business.

She had worked with Aflac, a supplemental insurance provider, and decided to become an independent insurance agent for them.

“I knew the product, knew the company and felt very good about it,” Moore said.

As easy as it was to set out professionally on her own, the decision to run for the school board was more difficult.

In 2012, Moore had attended meetings regarding “specific concerns” she had as a parent. Self-described as a strong Christian and a history buff, Moore said she was fighting to protect American history and the U.S. Constitution.

“It was the next step,” Moore said. “It’s where God wanted me.”

Moore has been in Middle Tennessee for more than 30 years, but admits she spent much of the 10 years leading up to her first school campaign traveling for work. This left her little time to be as involved in The Exchange Club and Chamber of Commerce as she would have liked.

She and Scott had always been involved in the education of their two boys. Whether it was helping with homework or serving as PTO presidents during their elementary school years, Moore said, “I always tried to be as involved as I could.”

She previously served on a parent advisory board for Murfreesboro City Schools.

In 2014, when Helen Blankenship suddenly passed away after briefly being hospitalized, Moore was one three candidates to pursue the open seat.

“I had a number of people come to me and encourage me to run for it,” Moore said. “I don’t like to look at the school board as a political office even though it is — I’m an elected official — and I know a lot of politicians and people say this, but, this is truly from the heart, I never ever and I still don’t want a political role. To me, our school system and our school board should be totally non-partisan. It doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat or a republican. What matters is your heart for the kids and your heart for their education.”

She added, “Those kids, who are in school right now, are the future of this country.”

As the only board member who currently has a child enrolled in RCS – “I have a true vested interest” – Moore said she feels like the voice of parents.

Looking back, Moore said the difference between winning and losing was her willingness to publicly take a stand against Common Core academic standards — something neither of her opponents were willing to do while campaigning.

“I think that’s what turned it,” Moore said.

“In the two-plus years I’ve been on the board now, I do feel like I’ve earned the respect of my fellow board members. And I’ve come to respect them too. They’re all different, which is good. … There’s not a board meeting or a conversation with one of them that I don’t learn anything.”

Moore was recently re-elected in August after serving the final two years of Blankenship’s original four-year term. Unlike 2014, Moore ran unopposed.

Moore is proud to provide the seven-member board with a new, fresh perspective and a female point of view. For the most part, Moore said she’s done more listening than talking and strategically chooses her topics.

That said, her longtime career in staffing and human resources served her well when the board recently hired a new staffing company to handle substitute teachers in Rutherford County.

She was particularly inquisitive regarding their ability to provide the numbers needed to fill all the substitute positions on a daily basis throughout the school year. Moore also had a rather pointed line of questioning regarding their screening practices and recruiting techniques as well as retention methods.

“I had a couple board members tell me, ‘I would have never thought of asking that,’” she said.

Aside from earning and maintaining the respect of parents, Moore said she’s been astounded by the accomplishments, honors and talents of Rutherford County Schools’ students in and out of the classroom.

In addition to sports, she noted fine arts, saying she still remembers when the board toured the Central Office, which displays the artwork of dozens of students each year, representing the schools from across the district.

Moore also recalled attending Central Magnet School’s senior banquet and being taken aback by the total amount of scholarship dollars being awarded. She said it was another in an ongoing list of illustrations and examples of the hard work and effort on the part of students coupled with the dedication of teachers and staff.

“No sooner do I think I’ve seen it all and we’ll have something else like that happen,” Moore said. “It just makes me that much more proud of what we’re doing here.

“We stand out as a true beacon, if you will, of what a public system should look like,” continued Moore, who re-emphasizes the importance of always thinking about the students of Rutherford County. “They truly are the future of this country. We’ve got to keep investing in them.”

PHOTO / JAMES EVANS