Local News

3 candidates announced for District 1 School Board seat

SEBRING - This year's school board races could be interesting with the District 5 seat vacated by Andy Tuck, who was appointed to the State Board of Education, and three candidates, thus far, intending to run for the District 1 seat.

Also of note, for the first time in 14 years a minority candidate, Al Joe Hinson, has filed to run for the school board.

Along with Hinson, incumbent Ronnie L. Jackson and Charlene Edwards have filed for the District 1 seat, which includes the Avon Park schools.

Thus far, except for Tuck, who is expected to withdraw, no one has filed for the District 1 seat, which encompasses Cracker Trail Elementary and Hill-Gustat Middle School.

William "Bill" Brantley's term on the District 4 seat expires this year. Thus far he is the only candidate to file for the seat that covers the Lake Placid schools.

The candidate qualifying period will be from noon, June 16 through noon, June 20.

Hinson, who is black, said the last time a minority ran for the board was in 2000.

He doesn't believe there have been any Hispanic candidates.

"We need some diversity in our school board because we do have a diverse operation here and kids need to see people who look like them," in important positions, he said. There are few black male role models in school, "and maybe that's why we are losing our black kids because they don't have that role model."

Hinson, a retired teacher and coach, served one term on the Avon Park City Council from 2008-2011.

"I am running for the kids and I am running for the teachers," he said.

Hinson said he doesn't believe teachers should be put under pressure to do good.

"We have principals as dictators," Hinson said. "I don't feel that teachers are comfortable with a lot of the principals that they have. I don't know where it is coming from, whether it is coming from the school board or if it is coming from the superintendent, but they are coming in with a whip or a belt to whoop you into place."

Highlands County is close to the bottom in student achievement in the state, he said. The board members have to reach out to the kids and have some compassion.

Edwards said she informed Jackson of her intentions to file for the school board seat.

She has also spoken to Hinson.

Edwards is the director of operations of the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which provides childcare and education services for low-income and rural families in 21 Florida counties.

Edwards said she has lived in Highlands County for more than 40 years. She had three sons who graduated form Avon Park High School and has been active in the community in the community for many years in various organizations such as the Cub Scouts, school committees and parent-teacher organizations.

"I want to be able to be on the school board to look at everything we do through the lens of how we are supporting our teachers, how we are supporting our children and how we are engaging families in this process," she said.

Jackson, along with the other school board members, were conducting the annual school campus walk through tours Wednesday.

Speaking from the Kindergarten Learning Center, Jackson said he knows both Hinson and Edwards.

"I am going to run for reelection," the retired teacher and coach said. "I was hoping not go through all that, but that is part of it. Everybody has a right to run.

"It's not a message about them, it's about what I do and what I have done."

He wished the best of luck to his fellow candidates, but he will try his best to be reelected, Jackson said.

The nonpartisan school board election will be held during the Aug. 26 primary election. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the top two vote getters will face off in the Nov. 4 general election.

Concerning Tuck's vacated seat on the school board, Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton said the governor's office is authorized to appoint someone to fill the seat.

People who are interested usually submit applications to the governor's appointment office and someone would be appointed to fill the remainder of Tuck's term, he said.

The governor's office can do that quickly or take their time, Blanton said. Some were appointed very quickly and some took three or four months.