Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Stewart and Dudley head to runoff in Pinellas School Board District 6 race

In the county's only School Board race without an incumbent, voters have sent a human resources manager and a former city council member and coach to this fall's general election.

Human resources professional Matt Stewart captured 36.9 percent of the overall vote, while retired city council member Bill Dudley won 34 percent.

Dunedin High School autism teacher Lorena Grizzle, 65, trailed with about 29.1 percent of the vote.

Now Stewart and Dudley, both of whom have called the county home for nearly their entire lives, will compete to fill the District 6 seat. The spot is left vacant by longtime board member Linda Lerner, who is stepping down after nearly three decades in a region that spans parts of Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole and the south Gulf Beaches.

"Voters want a change on the School Board," Stewart said. "They're looking for a candidate who has both the experience and the education to bring about that change, and based on tonight's results, I think that's me."

Stewart, 38, who works in human resources for Hillsborough County government, has also taught ethics as an adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College. He says that, as a foster parent, he sees the need to fight "the war on public education."

He prioritizes school safety, plus a layered approach to the lingering achievement gap, from boosting community ties to increasing transparency on student achievement and discipline.

Dudley, 74, spent most of his 38-year teaching career as a coach at Northeast High. He says school safety is his No. 1 priority, followed by more vocational training and greater accountability for students. A role on the school board, he says, is just another way to continue his passion for being an educator.

He did not respond to a call for comment Tuesday.

Grizzle, 65, had the backing of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association and said she wanted to give teachers a louder voice amid a sea change in education, particularly when it comes to student testing and overly political teacher evaluations.

Voters may have recognized her last name, as her mother, Mary Grizzle, was the first Republican woman elected to the state Legislature.

"We worked hard, and I want to thank all my volunteers," she said Tuesday night. "We did our best."

Stewart spent most of his $11,882 in campaign expenditures on mailers. So did Dudley, with his $10,122, and Grizzle, with $7,022 spent altogether.

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

Contact Claire McNeill at (727) 893-8321 or [email protected]

For statewide election coverage check out The Buzz

For local election coverage check out the Bay Buzz

For school board election coverage check out The Gradebook.

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