Arthurene Williams, Rene Flowers speak out on District 7 School Board race
Two updates regarding this story about Lew Williams' influence over the Pinellas County School Board District 7 candidates who are running to fill the seat left vacant following Williams' December death.
First, we got a message from Williams' widow, Arthurene Williams, who has been mum on her picks for School Board. Here's what she said:
"I do appreciate your interest in my opinion ... I've been following not only District 7, but the District 1 race. I truly believe all the candidates have made good points. Myself personally, I have have decided to remain neutral in both races rather than making a statement that could influence voters in any way because I really think it's up to each individual to make up his or her mind when it comes to selecting the best school board member for our district, which is for our children."
Second, you probably saw mention of the criticism District 7 candidate Rene Flowers has come under from some of her opponents, including Ray Tampa, who said that in the landscape of her political interests, Flowers hasn't displayed a lot of interest in education until now. Flowers has been combating that notion during public appearances by listing all of the educational issues she has been involved in over the years. Here, in an email to the Times, is her written response:
Just a small response to Ray Tampa and his comment questioning when I became involved in students education in Pinellas County.
I began working with students regarding education issues when hired by what was the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center under Ron Lipton, then Astrid Ellis and then Tracy Payne before I ran for City Council in 1998. That employment span regarding education in schools with children in Pinellas County providing services to youth in Middle and High School was from 1993 to 1998.
I volunteered with Pinellas Marine Institute which is now AMI . I am now Chair of the board. My membership on the board occurred before Lew ran for office.
I was one of the initial members of COQEBS when it was first started invited to the table by Vyrle Davis..
I volunteered for and fought to keep the Girls Inc program when it was housed right down from Jordan Park.. Unfortunately it lost its funding and the dollars I was able to secure was not enough to keep the program going.
I was a supporter and volunteer with PACE Center for Girls.
Under the initial reign of Rep Rouson as President of the NAACP I continued the support for youth in Pinellas County Schools as a mentor and partnering with Adelle Vaughn Jemison on her committee regarding education and the Green Factors.
As Vice President of Health Education and Prevention of the Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free St. Petersburg (2001-2005), the SAMSHA grant we received, ($500,000.00) was Substance abuse education and prevention which required student support services in the school system(primarily with from the midtown community), the after school tutorial programs that were positioned at Childs Park ( Bob Valenti and then Steve Kornell were the Center Directors) as well as Wildwood Recreation Center. As the VP I did not just assign staff, I participated and led groups as well with the students both in school and in the after school tutorial programs. Persons employed under me were Charlene Jenkins, Rev. A. J. Murphy, Rev. Deborah Green, Pastor Troy Adams, Deborah Sanders and several others..... At the Coalition, we received manuals on how to try to assist the student with the FCAT so that struggle is not new to me either.
I also received funds from other sources to put on programs for the students which included a Summer Youth Teen Summit. The first year it was held at the Davis Bradly Building in conjunction with Worlds Aids Day Events, the second was at Wildwood and drew over 300 students. The second year it was held at Pasadena Community where we had a little over 300 students. We asked for volunteer youth from the community. Those youth drove the program outline and we as staff served as their support.
As a council member, I followed Mr. Fillyau by continuing support and maintained the funding for the YouthBuild Program(helping those students get their GED and then learning the construction trade). The first of several homes completed under the guidance of Mr. Bernard King and Mr. Leo Felder and others was in the Palmetto Park Neighborhood . I also joined with Mr. Brown and others for a similar program at P-Tech regarding youth and young adults with felony records. Ms Phoebee Quarterman heads that now and I have supported funding for her every round through CDBG funding including this year! I also cannot leave out the Summer Youth employment Program and its expansion via funding under my service as a Council member, my current support of the Summer Youth Program headed by Gwen Reese and yes I brought on board two of the students at my place of employment( Gulf Coast) and serving as their mentor during their summer employment and thrilled to attend their graduation from the program which was held at St Pete College.The goal, education is important now and is a driver towards your future.
I have been a speaker for the Sisters Programs at Azalea Middle, Tyrone Middle, and as far north as Oakgrove in North County (invited and asked to speak with children about consequences) all on my own time either by being invited or my asking if help was needed. Not as a council member, nor a candidate but just a volunteer.
I volunteer with the Ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha EYL Academy holding speech writing and presentation trainings which culminates into an event during Black History Month where they( the youth of EYL) have an opportunity to read their essays before an audience of family members, friends and onlookers. That started wayyyyyyy before I began to run for office.
I have not missed an opportunity when afforded to go back to Head Start (Jordan Park and the William F. Fillmore Center) and volunteer to read to the children as well as purchase books to leave so that the children could take them home.
Last and certainly not least every single school my children ever attended, the teachers knew me, the principals knew me, the staff knew me, I volunteered, served as a PTA officer under Ms. Earline Demps at Mt. Vernon, SAC at Thurgood Marshall and PTA,ran concession stand, the football, cheerleader and track support parent. The taking other children home parent, the field trip volunteer parent and the parent that sometimes paid for other children so they could participate
There is so much more and I am sure that I am not the only one. I just wanted to share with you a few things that I have done, am doing, and will continue to do.