TAMPA — After 20 years on the Hillsborough County School Board, Candy Olson is stepping down when her term ends in 2014.
"As I look at myself and the work I do, I couldn't commit to putting the same level of energy, passion and patience into it for five and a half more years," Olson said Tuesday.
At 65, Olson said she does not intend to retire, and age is not a factor.
"But after 20 years, it's time," she said. "I've done similar work for 20 years."
Nor, she said, was she concerned about what would have likely been a contentious race against challenger Michael Weston, a high school teacher who already has made a habit of criticizing Olson publicly.
"I've run against ugly campaigns before," Olson said. "He was one that made me hesitate. It might have been an interesting campaign."
Olson, of South Tampa, represents a district that also includes the Apollo Beach and Ruskin areas.
She is chairwoman of the national Council of the Great City Schools, a term that ends in July. Locally, she has held leadership positions in organizations that include the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County.
Looking back on her years on the School Board, Olson said she is proud of specific efforts she championed, such as the restoration of historic schools and the protection of Nature's Classroom, an outdoor environmental education program in Thonotosassa.
She also advocated community collaboration and planning ahead for changes such as the current shift to the Common Core State Standards.
Forward thinking helped the district win a Gates Foundation grant for Empowering Effective Teachers, which board members consider far better than the new evaluation system used by other Florida districts.
"We don't wait until the brick wall hits us," Olson said. "I have a lot to look back on."
She said she does not yet know what she will do after her term ends. "I have a year and a half to figure that out," she said.
Her departure leaves three seats to fill next year, as members Stacy White and April Griffin are both running for Hillsborough County Commission.
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.