With elections less than a year off, interest is growing in the three Pasco County School Board seats with expiring terms.
Most recently, Hudson Middle School teacher Mike Aday has announced his candidacy for the District 5 seat currently held by Steve Luikart.
Aday, 32, is a Gulf High School 2004 salutatorian, a one-time teacher of the year for his school and an active member of the United School Employees of Pasco.
He stressed that he is not running against Luikart, for whom he expressed "nothing but respect," but rather for a place on the board. He said he wants to bring the "boots on the ground" perspective to the board as it makes decisions affecting children, teachers and staff.
"Pasco is home to me and has given me so much," said Aday, who has a son in kindergarten in the district. "I want to do the best I can to serve."
Heís not the only educator showing interest in this seat.
Kathryn "Kassie" Hutchinson, who taught in Pinellas County schools for four years before entering law school, also has filed papers to run for District 5.
"Itís my first year not teaching," said Hutchinson, 26, a newcomer to Pasco County. "I miss not being able to help students. Ö So I decided to run for school board."
She said she would focus on three key issues: class size reduction, improved student discipline, and better local assessments.
Luikart, a retired assistant principal with more than 30 years in the system, has not said whether he will seek a third term.
Cynthia Armstrong, the boardís chairwoman, plans to seek a third term on the board serving District 3.
She has targeted enrollment growth and student achievement as primary areas for the boardís activities in the coming years.
"Iím passionate about education. I believe in public education, and I want to do everything I can to make sure Pasco County public schools are the best they can be," said Armstrong, a real estate agent and former teacher.
She faces newcomer Meghan Hamer, who said she wants to focus on bullying prevention. Hamer lately has begun speaking about issues at board meetings during public comment time.
District 1 incumbent Allen Altman has not announced whether he will seek another four years on the board, but has hinted he will do so.
One person already has filed to seek the position. Brian Staver, a retiree and Democratic Party activist, submitted papers in April.
"I started doing research," Staver said at the time. "Things need to be addressed. They need to be changed."
Qualifying for the August 2008 primary comes in June.
STORM SUPPORT: Over the years, Pasco County students have sent moral support to children around the country who have suffered during major storms and other emergencies.
This year, it was their turn to be on the receiving end.
Students from Manteo Elementary in North Carolinaís Outer Banks sent notes, cards and bookmarks, along with books about their areaís local history and copies of "Fenway and Hattie," their schoolís all-student read.
"Dear friend," one correspondent wrote. "I hope you are O.K. I hope your family is O.K. too. I was in a hurricane once. It was scary. I thought it was the end for me, but it passed. I was so happy. Also, after it passed, there was fish everywhere."
Another wrote, "Be brave of what happened. ... Which one did you get hit by? Jose, Harvey, Irma or Maria?"
The school also raised $475 for the Pasco County animal shelter.
CONTRACT DEAL: Ratification of a revised employee contract agreement, reached Dec. 14, is not slated to happen before winter break.
Itís not likely to be done before mid-February.
But thatís not stopping the district from working to get staffers their negotiated raises ó 0.75 percent for teachers, 2.25 percent for support personnel ó ahead of the formal approval.
As part of the settlement, the district agreed to begin paying the added salary, retroactive to the start of the academic year, in advance of the board and employee votes.
The paperwork will be processed as soon as the finance department completes W-2 forms, employee relations director Kathy Scalise said.
The expectation is that the contracts will win ratification. If they donít, the district will withhold any overpayments from future paychecks.
Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.