SPC, NAACP host Pinellas School Board candidate forum tonight
This post has been edited to add Ken Peluso's comments.
Six of the nine candidates vying for three seats on the Pinellas County School Board in the upcoming election will gather tonight at a candidate forum hosted in partnership with the local branch of the NAACP at St. Petersburg College's Allstate Center.
Moderated by 10 News WTSP anchor Reginald Roundtree, candidates will be taking questions submitted by the audience from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the forum, located at 3200 34th St S in St. Petersburg. Admission is free, and the 300 seats available in the center are first-come, first-serve.
Those who have committed to attending are District 1 at-large candidates Joanne Lentino, a retired first-grade teacher at Gulfport Elementary, and Matt Stewart, a deputy director for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and adjunct ethics professor at St. Petersburg College; District 4 candidate and Clearwater Intermediate science teacher Eileen Long; and District 5 incumbent Carol Cook with challengers Mike Petruccelli, a licensed real estate and insurance broker from Indian Shores, and Eliseo Santana Jr., a retired communications maintenance supervisor at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
District 5 incumbent Ken Peluso, District 1 candidate and former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Dudley and District 4 candidate and longtime Pinellas teacher Chris Hardman will not be at the forum.
Dudley said he could not change the date for his fundraiser at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and called the scheduling conflict a "snafu."
"I feel bad but it takes money to run a campaign," Dudley said. "Unfortunately there's a lot of overlap and stuff going on. This is just one of the casualties. I certainly would've liked to have been there."
Hardman said he had to make himself available to care for his disabled younger brother who has been in and out of the hospital recently.
Peluso said Tuesday that he had two commitments planned for today prior to the NAACP's invitation. He will be speaking tonight as a School Board member at a police event and at On Top of The World community center in Clearwater.
Maria Scruggs, president of the local NAACP branch, said she took note that Peluso, an incumbent, and Dudley, a known local political figure, would not be attending.
"I thought it was interesting that those two were conveniently not going to be there," she said.
Another debate will be held at SPC's Seminole campus, 9200 113st North, on August 2 at 6:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in running for the School Board has until before noon on June 24 to qualify for the race. Voters must register to vote by August 1.
School Board candidates will appear on the August 30 primary ballot. Early voting will be held from August 20 to 28. If no candidate wins a majority, then the top two candidates advance to a runoff election held Nov. 8.
District 1 is an at-large seat, meaning that any registered Pinellas County voter may vote for that seat. District 4 covers north county areas, including Tarpon Springs, East Lake and Palm Harbor. District 5 includes the central portion of the county, encompassing parts of Clearwater and Largo.