Two candidates file to lead United School Employees of Pasco
Two outspoken Land O'Lakes High School teachers will face off for the presidency of the United School Employees of Pasco.
Math teacher Pat Connolly and social studies teacher Kenny Blankenship both met the Thursday deadline to seek the post, which comes open with the retirement of Lynne Webb. Webb had served as president for 15 years.
Both Connolly and Blankenship have been regulars in the USEP over the years. Blankenship took over as vice president for teachers in 2011, leaving the classroom to do so. Connolly most recently served on the teacher contract negotiating team.
Each also has made a habit of speaking at School Board meetings about issues of concern, including pay, policies and district practices. Longtime colleagues, each said they planned to run a campaign based on what they hope to accomplish, and not attacking one another.
Blankenship said his goals would be to increase union membership, and to increase participation in lobbying lawmakers on education issues.
"The biggest thing that impacts us as teachers is what takes place in Tallahassee," he said. "That affects our lives every day."
Connolly, who was in classes and not immediately available, made clear at the most recent School Board meeting that he would press for employee rights. He urged the board to consider finding more ways to increase the salaries of the longest serving employees, for instance.
A finalist for 2014 county teacher of the year, Connolly said later Friday that his goal was to have a well regarded classroom teacher leading the union charge. "I believe I can bring that level of respect to the office," he said.
The vote is set for Feb, 27 through March 13. The only other contested USEP race is for vice president of school-related personnel, with incumbent bus driver Gay Kennedy facing Marchman Technical Education Center paraprofessional William Hull.
Candidates without opposition are Gulf Highlands Elementary music teacher Lee Kulikauskas as vice president-teachers, and Anclote High language arts teacher Cheryl Vinson as secretary-treasurer.