Pinellas School Board candidate wants more parent, community engagement
The Pinellas school district could make more headway narrowing achievement gaps between white and black students if it better engaged parents, enlisted community support and reduced resource disparities among schools, said School Board candidate Keisha Bell.
“We still have a lot of work to do on that issue,” Bell told the Gradebook. “By increasing the parental involvement, I think that’s going to show positive impact.”
Bell, 35, is running for the District 7 seat now held by two-term incumbent Mary Brown. She’s a native and resident of St. Petersburg and a graduate of Dixie Hollins High School, the University of Central Florida and the Florida State University College of Law. The lawyer splits her time handling family law cases and managing a federal antiobesity grant for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. You can read more about her on her campaign Web site here.
“I bring community connections. I bring a desire to connect to the community and have the community’s voice heard,” Bell said. “It could be small things, like changing the time of a School Board meeting … to make it more convenient to help people be involved.”
Bell said if she’s elected, she would hold town hall meetings so residents could more easily find out what changes the district is considering and give their opinions about the changes. She also said the district could better work with community groups, such as churches, by coordinating and publicizing the education-related work they’re doing. “A lot of people want to engage the process,” she said. “They just don’t know how to.”
So far, Bell is the only candidate in any of the four School Board races to take on an incumbent. But she had little comment about Brown except to say, “I think that she probably did the best that she could do.”
“I know what I bring,” Bell continued. “I know people want new, fresh energy. They want change. They want an advocate who’s proven.”
Bell said she favors a new fundamental high school in District 7, which includes much of St. Petersburg. She wants to introduce healthier food options to school vending machines and cafeterias. And she wants to close achievement gaps with an approach that includes beefing up resources to struggling schools.
A few years ago, as part of the youth conference program for Community Tampa Bay, Bell said she conducted more than 100 workshops in dozens of Pinellas schools on issues like bullying, discrimination and respect. “In certain schools, it’s very obvious that they have more resources,” she said. “I want to make sure that those attending schools in this district have the same resources that are available in other parts of the district.”