Pinellas School Board member Ken Peluso draws two challengers for August election
Pinellas County School Board member Ken Peluso was the first to file for reelection in September.
Five months later, two Pinellas school teachers have entered the race for his District 4 seat, which covers north Pinellas areas Tarpon Springs, East Lake and Palm Harbor.
Chris Hardman, 63, of Clearwater, is entering his third race for School Board. He lost in the 2006 election for the at-large District 2 seat and again in 2008 for the District 4 seat, where both he and Peluso lost to incumbent candidate Robin Wikle. Peluso replaced Wikle when she left her seat mid-term in 2014.
Hardman, whose career has brought him to teaching posts around the county since 2002, said he would like to add more fundamental schools, especially in south St. Petersburg. He added that he was more suited for the job because he has relevant and current experience that Peluso lacks.
"You need to know what’s going on and provide relevant input at workshops and board meetings," Hardman said. "We can’t afford to have weak board members at this time in the development of the school district. It hurts the whole operation of the district."
Eileen Long, a 54-year-old from Dunedin, is rounding out her 34th year in education as a science teacher at Clearwater Intermediate. In that time, with all but two years spent within Pinellas, she said she's seen a growing divide between teachers and administration. She led a "Just Let Us Teach" rally at a School Board meeting in October.
"I want the young people coming into this field to feel as passionate and as excited as I have," she said. "And I don’t want this negativity that’s floating around."
Peluso has invested $5,000 of his own money into his campaign, but has not spent any of it, according to financial reports submitted to the Pinellas Supervisor of Election's office. Hardman and Long have not filed any expense reports so far.
The three will face off in the Aug. 26 election along with six other candidates for the District 5 seat and at-large District 1 seat.