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Pinellas County School Board Candidates Respond to Questions from Business Community

Graphic from Tampa Bay Times

The 100,000 students enrolled in Pinellas County Schools represent not only the future generation but also our future workforce.  School board elections are important to not only students and parents, but are also critical to our local businesses and economy.  Strong schools have strong economic impact, and school board elections matter.  In addition to making prudent decisions on behalf of our current community, the school board and education system have a resounding impact on businesses looking to relocate to the St. Petersburg area.

The following questions were gathered from the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce's Education Committee and Public Policy Council.  Questions were submitted to all candidates.

The primary election will be held on August 23, 2022.  ALL registered voters are able to vote in this election, regardless of party affiliation.  For School Board races, if no candidate wins the majority of the vote in the race - 50% plus one vote, the two candidates receiving the most votes will be in a runoff on the November 8 General Election ballot.

For additional voting information including sample ballots and precinct information, please refer to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website.

District 2 - At Large

LISA CANE

1.  What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election? What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?

I am running for the Pinellas County School Board to expand and enhance arts and humanities programs in middle and elementary schools, to promote and innovate community partnerships, to expand career technical programs and certifications, and to foster policies the align with Florida standard educational practices.
If elected I hope to create the expansions of formal arts programing for the remaining underserved middle schools in our County, I will strive to help foster additional growth with organizations such as The Innovation Foundation and expand on the Elevating Excellence Initiative by creating stronger partnerships with local fire, police, paramedic, and medical organizations who provide training and certifications district wide.

2.  What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

Pinellas County Schools can partner with the local housing authorities to create incentive programs that will attract talented educators to Pinellas County.

3.  In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

Local businesses can partner with Pinellas County Schools through programs like the summer acceleration program which gives local students an opportunity to have paid internships at local businesses. Businesses can also sponsor schools and academic programs that offer students workforce experience or help students obtain professional certifications.

4.  How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

I would work to expand our current budget for career technical programming through local business partnerships, local and national grant programs, and community partnerships such as the Pinellas Education Foundation and others who seek to expand these workforce opportunities for students across Pinellas County. I believe every student is equipped with their own set of talents and gifts and we must help to cultivate their potential by creating as many work-force opportunities as possible.

 

BRAD DECORTE - no response 

BRONSON OUDSHOFF - no response 

District 3 - At Large

KEESHA BENSON

1. What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election?

I am running for school board because I believe in healthy children, strong families, and engaged communities. Six generations of my family live in Pinellas County, my mother was an educator in Pinellas County Schools (PCS) for 37 years. I attended K-12 in PCS, and my husband and I have three young children currently enrolled in the district.
I am a graduate of Lakewood High School (Center for Advanced Technology). I earned both my Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Social Work with a focus on community intervention and a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I also hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Business Administration from Florida A&M University. I am an experienced educator, a dedicated community advocate, and a proven leader.

As a leader, I bring a systems level viewpoint and a cradle-to-career outlook to the School Board. As the former Director of Thrive by Five Pinellas I worked with system leaders across the county to ensure an equitable and accessible early childhood system. I have served as a college professor for over a decade and excel in classroom facilitation, inclusive pedagogy, and faculty development. I believe that education is the basis for social mobility and generational advancement. As a Pinellas County resident, I want to ensure an educated workforce as the future of our community and the opportunity for every student to thrive.
I am an inclusive and equity-centered community practitioner with over 20 years of experience engaging in work with children and families, nonprofit organizations, business leaders, and community stakeholders. My work has crossed multiple disciplines including child welfare, public health, business, philanthropy, and education. I have an in-depth understanding of community engagement at all levels with culturally diverse populations.

My big picture vision for serving on the School Board is preparing students to enter the K-12 educational system; providing a safe, quality, equitable learning environment for all students; and ensuring access to diverse post-secondary pathways (e.g., workforce development, higher education, and vocational training). Upon election, an issue of focus would be addressing inequities in our district (e.g., the achievement gap). I would:
1. Focus on student-centered learning tailored to specific student and school needs.
2. Advocate for a reciprocal sharing of information, clear feedback loops, and continued opportunities for input from school stakeholders.
3. Seek to implement clear dashboards, data driven programming, and equitable resource allocation to ensure that every child has access to a quality education.

a. What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?

PCS’s Strategic Plan includes a focus on equity with excellence for all. The district’s equity initiatives cover hiring and professional development; ESSA gaps; EL, ESE, SES resource needs; and ensuring equity in resource allocation across the district. One aspect of equity includes the Bridging the Gap Plan which was created to close the achievement gap between Black students and their peers. Improvement has been shown in some of the key goal areas, while inequities still exist in several. More information about the plan and data can be found at https://www.pcsb.org/BTG

 

2. What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

To recruit and retain teachers and school personnel, Pinellas County Schools must elevate the voices of those in our school communities. The district must:
• Support teachers and school personnel in their professions to provide excellence for our students.
• Ensure safety, adequate mental and physical health options, pay parity, flexibility, and a transparent understanding of state legislation's impact on district decisions (e.g., raises, curriculum, etc.).
• Providing resources and wraparound supports.
• Bring systems leaders, funders, and community partners to the table to find innovative ways to augment district resources.
One incentive for teacher/ school personnel recruitment would be related to housing. PCS is one of the largest landowners in Pinellas County and could offer affordable housing in partnership with municipal support.
As the Vice Chair of the South St. Peterburg CRA, Citizens Advisory Committee I know how deeply the issue of affordable housing impacts the Pinellas community. I would advocate on behalf of families, students, teachers, and staff to ensure that their voices are heard as a part of the systemic effects of the recent escalation and crisis in the Florida housing market. The School Board can analyze school demographics data (e.g., homeless students stats), and similar surveys can be done for school personnel to better understand home ownership/ rental burden. The district can partner with other systems leaders to find ways to offer school staff housing incentives, rental vouchers, housing tax breaks, etc. We can ask the questions about % of AMI for housing and have a better idea of the challenges faced by those in our district.

3. In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

Some of the greatest challenges that threaten our economy as it relates to schools are housing burden, pay disparity, food insecurity, teacher and school personnel shortage, inadequate mental health services, job safety and flexibility, and the lack of accessible wrap-around services for families.

The most important and critical challenge that threatens our economy is the barriers to accessing and participating in the economy and reaching one’s potential. I believe that there are many different structural, educational, and political barriers that prevent individuals from fully achieving economic stability and accessing wealth that could impact generational poverty.

During my tenure as the Manager and Community Facilitator for the Grow Smarter Initiative, through the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, I facilitated the multi-sector work of 90+ organizations towards equitable economic growth for the city of St. Petersburg. In this role, I listened to and worked with citizens, community organizations, businesses, and government agencies to better understand what equitable economic growth meant for each sector and for the community, as well as created spaces for discussion and collaborative problem solving to reduce economic inequity and its barriers.

The business community must assess the structural and political barriers to participation in the economy for those who struggle attain a living wage and ultimately (generational) wealth. The more people can access economic success, the brighter and more vital our economy will continue to be. This includes promoting and supporting technical and trade skills in schools, supporting magnet programs that will help bridge students to higher paying STEAM jobs in universities, nurturing entrepreneurship, and financial management among young people to increase wealth generation and financial stability into adulthood and beyond, and providing family friendly workplaces.

In my former role as the Director of Thrive by Five Pinellas, I established Family Friendly Pinellas. Family Friendly workplaces can attract and retain employees by focusing on their needs and the needs of their families. The Family Friendly Business Award® is a designation for Pinellas County businesses with workplace practices that support families. Business leaders understand that adopting family friendly policies can lead to a strong balanced workforce with lasting impact such as “increasing completion of postsecondary education; raising labor force participation; increasing workforce productivity; and helping businesses attract and retain talent.” https://familyfriendlypinellas.org/

We will continue to attract businesses and workforce talent to the area by having strong educational institutions and working in collaboration with higher ed and training programs to ensure strong pipelines into growing industries that pay a living wage. If employees cannot afford to live where they work, we won’t be able to retain them for long. We must go beyond traditional models of economic development and look to equitable economic growth opportunities. When we can attract well-paying firms to the area and hire from within the community to not only provide a living wage, but high earning salaries we can raise the economic vitality of the community as a whole.

4. How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

My vision for providing a quality public education revolves around involving the full community, because without community voice and buy-in, the work to better Pinellas County will not continue. Collaborative partnership with school stakeholders, community and system leaders, businesses, and elected officials across Pinellas can ensure a quality, equitable, and safe public education system for all.
Balancing a budget is never an easy task and will call for creativity to adapt to the needs of school personnel in today’s economy. The district may have to re-evaluate contracts and bring some efforts in-house to ensure that funds are maximized, investigate organizational efficiency (e.g., overtime cost), leverage community partnerships/ get funders and business community involved, lobby the legislature for additional funds, etc.
When residents and citizens have an improved quality of life, they are more likely to participate in the local economy and increase economic development opportunities for the community. Preparing young people for the future with tools like career readiness courses and technical training, ensuring that all students have access to quality public education, providing accessible housing and a living wage, and enriching and supporting community engagement at all ages are ways to balance our quality of life with continued economic development and ensure the future of Pinellas County.

 

DAWN PETERS

1.  What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election? What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?

I am running for Pinellas county school board so that I can be a voice for parents, students, teachers and staff. I do not believe these groups are properly represented based on the overall conversations I have had with the people in our community. The majority of the members on our school board are current or retired educators. We need members who not only have children in our school system, but also possess a professional, business background to to give more diverse viewpoints and experience on our school board. The 1st issue I will address will be restoring public comment to the recording and live stream of our meetings to restore our 1st amendment rights as overwhelmingly requested by our community.

2.  What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

Our teachers and staff deserve a higher pay raise that is equal to the rate of inflation. This will counteract the need for work force housing. We also need to incentivize our teachers & staff to stay employed in our school system. This will increase morale, employment longevity, encourage other teachers to join our school system, etc. It will also increase the morale, will encourage the young people in our classrooms to want to become the teachers of our future.

3.  In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

Business partnerships where a local business will adopt a school and work with that school to help assist with the financial and resource deficits of this particular school. The needs will be evaluated in each basis between that business and that school. When schools and businesses have a partnership this benefits the entire community. Businesses can also partner with a school that has a particular technical or trade program that relates to their business for internships, training and material needs. Mentoring. Businesses should encourage their employees to mentor students at local schools by giving them paid leave during these mentor hours. This has historically been a successful program and needs to be encouraged and expanded.

4. How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

We most definitely need to promote these programs and encourage our young people to consider technical training & trade programs that are available in our high schools. This needs to be done earlier on in middle school as young people are considering which schools to attend. We should have local businesses that relate to these technical trainings give our young people tours, speaking engagements, etc. that show what potential incomes and recession proof jobs are available that do not require a 4 year degree. Our technical and trade jobs are the backbone of this country and should be more widely promoted in the community so all families can have access to these free available programs. As we see the increased desire and enrollment in these programs, we will then allocate funds to expanding them so they are more widely available to all students in our county. ALL of our children deserve equal access to all opportunities in Pinellas county schools.

 

CARL "Z" ZIMMERMANN 

1. What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election?

I am running because I have been immersed in Pinellas County schools and public schools in general for over 33 years as well as serving in the legislature on most of the education committees. I have watched the changes – the good and the bad. I want to continue to be an active participant in leading our schools to change and be a place students want to go. The first issue is getting agreement with all parties that we must address the school climate and to do that we need to immediately address discipline, attendance, and the way we deliver education to our students.
What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?
Teacher surveys, teacher exodus and student attendance data.

2. What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

The board is restricted on how it can increase salary or contracts that offer security, but we can work with the county commission to develop areas of lower income housing specifically for teachers, cops and other essential workers. We should also work with the Pinellas delegation to designate portions of the Sadowski funds to supplement teacher and essential workforce housing either as a rent voucher or a voucher to be used as a down payment on purchasing housing (my preference).

3. In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

Schools need to accelerate the transition in making education better aligned with learning skills that students are interested in. Businesses can offer internships, consulting and tutoring pertaining to the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Most teachers are far removed from the business world and don’t have that application knowledge. In order to make education meaningful to a student we all need to make a real effort in bridging education and real-world application.

4. How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

Capital outlay funds pay for the technology and we can usually find those funds to get new programs started. But money is only a small part of implementing more technical training. Finding teachers that understand these fields and have the burning desire to make them come alive is the hardest part because it takes offering a competitive salary to what the teacher could make on the outside and we aren’t able to do that. We might look at offering part-time adjunct positions with industry professionals or partner with industry to allow the teacher to train during a summer internship. I have seen many technical programs fail because we just can’t find the right person to lead it.

District 6 - Single Member

BRIAN M. MARTIN


1. What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election? What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?

I am running for the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County School Board as the father of four children currently enrolled in Pinellas County Schools. I am fully invested in public education. I believe in a strong public education system where we not only educate our children, but we prepare them for life after graduation. The students in our classroom right now are the next generation of our community and everyone in our community benefits when our public education system produces well rounded and successful individuals. The biggest issue currently facing Pinellas County Schools is teacher and support staff recruitment and retention. According to the Pinellas County Schools Job Board, with less than a week before school is starting, Pinellas County has 178 vacant instructional positions and 210 vacant non-instructional positions. In addition to those numbers, as of July 18th, we were short an additional 65 bus drivers. School is starting in three days on August 10th. Thousands of our students will be entering classrooms with long term substitutes or packed into overcrowded classrooms.

2.  What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

As mentioned above, recruitment and retention is a paramount concern right now. We cannot ignore the fact that Florida is in the bottom seven nationally in terms of average teacher pay. The school board can work to find efficiencies in the budget and redirect funds into the classroom, but realistically any large movement in terms of teacher pay will require a legislative effort. Our new superintendent, Kevin Hendrick, has started an initiative to improve the climate and culture within our schools. Coupled with below average pay, our teachers and support staff feel undervalued and disrespected. This initiative seeks to return appreciation for our teachers and support professionals. The district needs to return the voices to our teachers and staff and let them know that the board and school administration have their backs.

The housing market and rent prices in Pinellas County are through the roof. I’ve spoken with numerous teachers that cannot afford to live in the district. Many are working second jobs to merely carve out an existence in the county. Couple that with fact that our support professionals make significantly less and you can see why we are facing this critical shortage. Pinellas County Schools is one of the biggest land holders in Pinellas County. The YMCA and middle school partnership project in north St Pete recently broke ground, with anticipated school start date of August 2024. This partnership not only adds a middle school to our education system, but integrates the land for community use. We have the ability to replicate this process and provide affordable housing for teachers and support staff directly on school board property. It’s a way to add value to our teacher and support positions without reliance on the legislature.

3.  In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

I am a Florida native, local small business owner, and chemical engineer with a degree from the University of South Florida. I spent the past 15 years working on water treatment and process separation equipment in power plants, refineries, and other industrial facilities. I have worked both with and for numerous Fortune 500 companies. The best way to partner our business community with the school system is by electing school board members with experience and expertise in business. I have experience from conceptual process design to project management and business ownership. I am committed to not only actively seek out business partnerships, but to advocate that the school board, and administration get in touch with our local businesses and find ways to work together. Career and technical education programs are not only a terrific way to set our students up for success, but also enhance our community as a whole. Partnering with our local businesses to ensure our career and technical programs provide the skills and knowledge required to be successful after graduation is beneficial to our students and our local economy by providing a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

4.  How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

Members of our local business community are the most knowledgeable to the needs of our community in terms of career and technical programs. We should work with our local businesses to provide career and technical programs that fill needs within our community. Only about half of our students go on to college. We need to make sure we are meeting the needs of all our students by setting them up for success in life after graduation. We currently have a number of career and technical programs within our schools. We should make sure that the current programs align with the needs and requirements of our local businesses. We need to expand access to more schools around the county as well as destigmatize labor. Our students that go into career and technical programs are not lesser than the students going off to college. We need to make sure that students are guided to the roles that they enjoy and not feel pressured into seeking degrees. As our local business leaders know, people that have gone through career and technical programs often go on to achieve great success in life.

 

STEPHANIE MEYER - no response

KIMBERLY WORKS

1. What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election?  What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?

As a mother and grandmother in this district I am invested in the decisions that are made at the district level. I am very passionate about our students and educators alike. I have been heavily involved in our district in as a volunteer, advocate, and Exceptional Student Education Committee Autism Parent Representative.  The first issue I would address would be helping our staffing shortages. We currently have 163 educator positions open in our district. We need to fill these positions with qualified educators immediately. This information has come from the Human Resources department from Pinellas County Schools.

2.  What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

We need to make a bigger presence in the job fairs than we do now, especially in Greenwood that is held on Saturdays. In addition, pushing for higher pay for our educators with our Legislators in Tallahassee would attract talented educators. Pinellas County Schools is looking into a program now where we would be providing housing for our teachers that are coming from out of the area to teach. This is in it's early stages, but it is in the districts hopes that it would be a benefit to the district.

3. In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

By providing discounts to our educators for services, or offering trainings and free items for their classrooms. Businesses can provide training, mentorships, resources for the classrooms as well.

4. How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

I am a big proponent of communication. I truly believe it is about getting out into the community and building the relationships that are needed to gain ideas for innovation in technology for our schools. We have outstanding tech programs currently offered to our students, however technology is always changing and we must change with it.  With regards to the budget, we must see the budget as a fluid object and be creative when it comes to finding access to the needed to stay with the times and offer trainings to our students that will educate them keeping their education relevant after graduation.

District 7 - Single Member

MARIA DI FIORE SOLANKI

1.What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election?  What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?

I have spent my entire adult life working as an advocate for children, especially those in challenging situations. Whether children with special needs, or those who are in orphanages, or even victims of human and sexual trafficking; I want to do all that I can to help them.  This passion of mine, most likely comes from my own childhood, as I had severe vision challenges (consequently I am legally blind) and therefore was a special needs kid myself, and I lost my mother to breast cancer at the age of 4. Because of my experience, I know how vulnerable children are and how difficult life can be. I feel that running for school board is the best way I can give back to the community and help the most children possible.

My first focus will be helping to turn around the low performing schools. Half the schools in District 7, which is in St. Pete, are on the Florida Department of Education's lowest performing school list. 75% of third graders cannot read at a third grade proficiency. When children are not properly educated, they use coping mechanisms such as drugs and violence to deal with their lack of understanding in the classroom. And way too often these are the children getting into trouble with the law and ending up in jail. It's a horrific endless cycle and a pipeline to prison that must be broken! These children trust us when they start at 5 years old in kindergarten and we must be able to educate them well, so they can become productive members of society.

2. What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

We must first value our staff. While both my sisters and I have been teaching for decades, there are other staff members that are as equally important that need to be recognized, such as bus drivers and cafeteria staff, but they rarely are. We also need to cut wasteful spending so we can pay our teachers more. Perhaps there will be ways we can provide affordable housing to teachers like many of the international schools do around the world. Teachers get an amazing package in many countries, which includes housing. Surplus buildings that the district has sold off in recent years, could potentially be used for more affordable housing for teachers. This is something to consider for the future.
Teachers also want more autonomy in their classroom.  Trying to stop their creative spark causes them to lose passion for their job.  Students can feel the passion and learn better when they are interested.  I have heard of silly things such as teachers not even allowed to put bird feeders outside their classrooms because it would be too messy!

Some teachers complain about not enough planning time, especially ESE teachers who not only teach classes but have many cases they must manage.

If we are asking teachers to collect data, then we better be using it.  Do not create busy work for teachers, they are busy enough!  I do believe data should be collected, but we need to use it them.  Also, if we can help match students to the right program from the beginning versus the program that is based on their zip code, we could potentially minimize the number of disruptions in the classroom because now kids are attending a program that aligns with their interests.  When kids are passionate about learning, they are more eager to learn and retain information and thus less likely to act us.  Teachers would love a more obedient class filled with engaged students!

3. In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

Businesses could provide internships to students. I think we need to strengthen our internship programs so students can get real life experiences and ideally even earn money from their internship, while still in school. Good business leaders in the community can also serve as mentors.

4. How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

The Community can greatly help with technical training programs, without expanding the present budget. We need to understand that there is high demand for technically trained workers and they can potentially make an amazing income. We need to stop pushing college for every student when we know some students are much happier working with their hands and would enjoy learning a trade.  We can also encourage students by matching them up with mentors and businesses.  This can be done along with curriculum that will further assist them in areas that include accounting, marketing or business management to ensure their success in the real world upon graduation.

 

CAPRICE EDMOND

1. What is the main reason you are running for Pinellas County School Board and what is the first issue you would address upon election? What data has been collected to know that issue should be prioritized?

I know we can do better in ensuring students, family and staff have the support they need to provide and receive a high quality education.

My top issue is to address the needs of the whole child so that they can be academically successful.

When we look at the make-up of our county’s students and families and their diverse needs, it’s clear that we have opportunities to ensure that all students have access to the resources they need to thrive.

We draw on data regarding the achievement gap between various groups of students; on feedback from families and other stakeholders; on staff recruitment and retention trends; and on the climate survey, among other data points.

I draw on my own experience as well, having grown up in St. Petersburg and attended Pinellas County Schools. I graduated from Gibbs High School and continued my education, earning a Bachelors’ degree in Psychology, Masters degrees in Elementary Education and Educational Leadership and a Certification in Infant Family Mental Health.

I have worked with youth residing in foster care, as an educator for Pinellas County Schools and volunteered as a Guardian ad Litem for over 10 years. As a parent, educator and certified School Board Member I have extensive knowledge and experience with child development, education and advocacy.

2. What can Pinellas County do better in terms of recruiting and retaining talented staff, with a particular focus on lack of workforce housing?

Pinellas County Schools has an opportunity to adopt an exit survey to better identify the reasons for turnover, and to underscore those areas that we have the ability to impact.
We would benefit from establishing more relationships with businesses and other local organizations to source candidates or to explore teaching internships or other partnerships. In particular, I believe we should look for ways to provide incentives for people to transition into teaching as a profession.

With particular focus on the lack of workforce housing, I’m pleased that the district is exploring housing opportunities and has increased wages. We must continue to do so. Some may not be aware of Pinellas County Schools’ budget and the state statutes that define wages and how funds are used.

3.  In your opinion, how can the business community best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County?

The business community can best partner with the school district to support teachers and students in Pinellas County by working with the Department of Strategic Partnerships, the Pinellas Education Foundation or their local schools to determine common interests and goals and move forward with mutually agreed upon initiatives.

For example, there is a great need for mentors, which local businesses might provide. There might be another business with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) who could provide funding and support to enhance STEM programs throughout the district.

I believe the district can do more to inform the business community and non-profits of opportunities available to support schools beyond solely mentoring and monetary donations, though they are greatly appreciated.

4.  How would you work with the current district budget as well as engage with the community to examine the opportunity to implement more technical training in high schools?

I believe it’s important to share with students and families the possibilities of dual enrollment at Pinellas Technical College and other similar opportunities. This can be accomplished within the current budget.

There are 12 types of High School District Application Programs. I see an opportunity to reassess the utilization and need for these many programs throughout the district and plan accordingly as well as ensure that people know about the technical training programs currently available.

 

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