Pinellas teachers' union picks a side in the countywide School Board race
Back in April, the Pinellas County teachers' union liked two School Board candidates so much, they endorsed both in the four-candidate race on the August primary ballot.
And both of those picks for the District 1 at-large countywide seat, Joanne Lentino and Matt Stewart, survived to go head-to-head in a runoff in the November general election.
That forced the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association to issue a second endorsement -- and this time they went with Lentino.
"We know that she's 100 percent all ours," said PCTA president Mike Gandolfo, who called Lentino, a retired Gulfport Elementary teacher, an activist who is a union member and is passionate about human rights. "Basically she's on every one of our issues...There really is no reason why we wouldn't endorse one of our own."
But Gandolfo had nothing bad to say about Stewart, a deputy director at Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office and an adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College, who squeezed into the the runoff race with about 1,500 votes over longtime Northeast High teacher and coach Bill Dudley. Lentino led the pack with 32.3 percent of the vote.
"They're both good candidates but when it comes down to it we can't bet on two horses in a race," Gandolfo said. "There was a clear choice."
Gandolfo said PCTA is still backing Eliseo Santana, a retired communication maintenance supervisor for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, in the District 5 runoff against incumbent Carol Cook. Cook fell short of winning the primary election with 48.2 percent of the vote.
"It's disturbing that charter schools are endorsing Carol Cook," Gandolfo said. "We don't think it's right that people who don't send their kids to our schools should decide who our School Board members are."