HILLSBOROUGH SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT CANDIDATES FORUM by Roxanne EScobales

09/01/06

Today in Tampa, a forum for Hillsborough County School Board candidates presented some interesting choices for voters – from experienced incumbents seeking re-election to a teenager who hasn’t even graduated high school yet.

ACT: Logan Cobb

That was XXX High School senior Logan Cobb speaking at a Tiger Bay of Tampa luncheon about what makes him stand out from the rest of school board hopefuls.

For district 2, Cobb is running against Candy Olson, the most experienced candidate. Olson has sat on the school board since 1994 and currently seeks re-election. She’s also chaired the board twice in the past 12 years.

Olson spoke out against rewards and punishments doled out to schools depending on the grade they’re assigned from FCAT scores.

ACT: right now we are punishing schools that are doing better

Aside from a high school senior, Olson faces another interesting candidate. Bart Birdsall is a media specialist at Greco Middle School. He’s also openly gay and running on an anti-bullying platform.

ACT:

In District 4 representing East Hillsborough, incumbent Jennifer Faliero also faces a teenage opponent. 19-year-old Hunter Gambrell is a teacher’s aide. Gambrell said he would like to see the superintendent’s 240-thousand-dollar-a-year salary cut while paying more to support staff. He especially spoke of raising pay for bus drivers, which Hillsborough County needs more of as it has a shortage.

ACT:

Incumbent Faliero was elected to the board in 2002. She originally ran for her seat because the schools in Valrico, her home city, were overcrowded. Faliero was an early advocate of tying new housing development to school funding, known as concurrency.

ACT:

This past year the Hillsborough County Commission decided to raise school impact fees. These are costs levied against new house constructions. The commission voted to raise impact fees from 196 dollars to 4,000 dollars gradually over the next year. But the St Petersburg Times reports that Commissioner Brian Blair, who had voted against raising the impact fee, wants to revisit the decision to raise fees as it came to light that the growth in student numbers is not as big as initially thought. However, this issue did not come up during the forum.

Voters must decide on three unknowns in the District 6 race.

When it came to discussing tolerance in school and the treatment of teenage gays and lesbians, concerned mother of one Stephanie Desmarais Georgiades said school is no place for sexuality.

ACT:

Also up for the District 6 seat is Ken Allen, now head of the county’s adult and community education programs. He warned that if sensitivity training in schools was not addressed it could result in a tragedy such as the Columbine shootings.

ACT:

Dave Schmidt is a school district administrator. He said that customer service-style training should be given throughout the district.

April Griffin is the fourth candidate running for the District 6 seat. A political activist and former substitute teacher, Griffin said that sensitivity training should not focus solely on the gay issue.

ACT: “have got to be in place�

In the School Board race, voters have candidates that suit many tastes – from the labor-strong Hunter Gambrell to the openly gay Bart Birdsall to the 12-year veteran Candy Olson. Primaries take place the Tuesday after Labor Day.

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