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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning files for reelection



Saying he wants to continue his efforts to improve education, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning has announced his bid for a second term.

Browning, 57, filed his initial campaign paperwork Thursday afternoon. Pasco County is the largest school district in the nation to have an elected superintendent.

"We've made some significant shifts in the way we educate our kids. I want to improve upon the way we do that," Browning said. "I also want to continue being an advocate for our teachers, kids and families in Tallahassee. I think with my past, with the positions I've held before, I want to leverage that to the district's benefit."

Browning, a former secretary of state under two governors, regularly is asked to speak in legislative hearings, and his staff often advises lawmakers on education issues. He often testifies before the State Board of Education, and has taken a leadership role among the state's superintendents.

He seeks four more years after a first term marked by highs and lows. He's battled with the local employees union over issues such as planning time, often finding himself at odds with the union leadership. He ran afoul of the Dade City community when he attempted to shutter the historic Moore-Mickens school, but tried again about a year later and found little resistance.

Other issues Browning has found himself under fire for included eliminating media specialists from schools, considering (but dropping) a proposal to end high school valedictorian honors, and, most recently, implementing new quarterly tests.

At the same time, Browning has won praise in many circles for his more open, transparent approach to leadership, which came as a welcome respite after he defeated then-incumbent Heather Fiorentino, who was seen as more controlling.

Browning acknowledged that he has made missteps along the way, and made controversial decisions. It was a hard lesson, he said, to know he made large numbers of people unhappy with some of his actions, having not faced that situation much in the past. 

So far, no known opposition has emerged to challenge Browning. United School Employees of Pasco president Kenny Blankenship said he had heard no names, and noted it would be a tough act to challenge the well-known Browning, who has held public office for three decades, without much ramp up before the November vote.

Some speculation has gone toward state Sen. John Legg, who heads the Senate Education Committee and runs a local charter school. Legg faces a possible election battle against fellow Sen. Wilton Simpson in the fall, because of redistricting.

Asked about the possibilities, Legg said he is focused on the Senate and its upcoming session, and not on running for any other office.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 7, 2016 2:53pm]


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