Larsen and Cane prevail in Pinellas District 2 School Board race, toppling incumbent Krassner

Pinellas County School Board member Terry Krassner, center, is facing challenges from Lisa Cane, left, and Jeff Larsen, right, as she vies for the third term.
Pinellas County School Board member Terry Krassner, center, is facing challenges from Lisa Cane, left, and Jeff Larsen, right, as she vies for the third term.
Published August 28 2018
Updated August 28 2018

In the District 2 race for a seat on the Pinellas County School Board, voters elected to send a middle school reading teacher and a performing arts professional to a runoff in this fall’s general election– rejecting a two-term school board incumbent.

In Tuesday's primary election, teacher Jeff Larsen had the edge with 46.3 percent of the vote. Lisa Nicole Cane, creative director of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Academy, won 37.3 percent.

Incumbent Terry Krassner, 66, didn't fare as well, capturing just 16.4 percent of the vote to lose out on her District 2 seat.

Krassner, a former principal, wished her competitors well after the results came in Tuesday evening.

"I love Pinellas County Schools. I always strived to put students, families and educators first," she said in a statement. "My only wish is that my successor does the same. I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to serve as an educator for 35 years and 8 years on the school board."

The at-large District 2 race is open to all county voters.

Larsen, 41, brings a particular passion for improving the working environment for teachers, which he says will have profound effects on students' education. He points, for instance, to extreme teacher turnover in the county's most troubled schools, which he said can leave students with five or six teachers in a school year.

To break the cycle, he wants to set up teachers to succeed, with better training and more resources for new teachers, plus more volunteers and co-teachers in struggling schools. To get a better handle on trouble spots, he wants more thorough climate surveys and exit interviews. And teachers should be encouraged to focus on learning, not testing, he said.

He works as a reading teacher in Pasco County, at Gulf Middle in New Port Richey, and has coached girls' and boys' basketball. His two sons attend Pinellas schools. He has also served two terms as a city commissioner and once as vice mayor in his hometown of Tarpon Springs. It's that broad resume that he said resonated with voters.

"I'm ready to lead from day one," he said.

Cane, 31, said that she was driven to run after frustrations with her children's curriculum, finding it devoid of the humanities, such as social studies. She said she wants to integrate the performing arts into schools, citing improved reading and math test scores at schools that invested in such programs.

She also wants to amplify students' voices.

"Choices are made from the top down, and those of us dealing with them from the student and parent perspective don't have a lot of say," she said.

Larsen spent far more on the race compared to his competitors, approaching $30,000 in spending, much of it going to mailers and other ads. Krassner spent $7,244 and Cane spent $3,135, according to county filings.

The School Board position paid $44,163 last year. Terms last four years.

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For school board election coverage check out The Gradebook.