Pinellas teachers' union endorses newcomer school board candidates
The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association is breaking the habit of endorsing incumbents for Pinellas County School Board.
The teachers union, which represents about 7,600 teachers across the county, recently announced its candidate picks for the upcoming election held in August. Its committee went with Eileen Long, a Clearwater Intermediate teacher for district 4; Eliseo Santana, a retired communications maintenance supervisor at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for district 5; and a double endorsement of Joanne Lentino, a former Gulfport Elementary teacher, and Matt Stewart, a deputy director for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and adjunct ethics professor at St. Petersburg College, for the county's at-large district 1 seat.
PCTA president Mike Gandolfo explained that Long "has the heart of a teacher." He said Santana is genuine and "has an interesting perspective contrary to any other board member that's sat there." He said he liked Stewart's youth and energy and that Lentino is "union through and through." If elected, this will be the first public office for those candidates.
In the 2014 election, the union endorsed incumbents across the board and one candidate for a seat with no incumbent: Linda Lerner, Peggy O'Shea, Rene Flowers and Terry Krassner as well as Ken Peluso, who replaced a resigned Robin Wikle in 2015.
Then, the PCTA gave Peluso a glowing recommendation. Peluso was the first to file for reelection for this race, but this time the union sided with Long, one of his challengers.
"The incumbents have not been receptive to educator issues" like unfair evaluations, lack of administrative support on discipline and poverty wages for support professionals -- all issues that have been personally brought to the board by teachers, Gandolfo said. He said the union feels the newcomers "will understand that the superintendent works for the board, not the other way around."