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Clark, Hayden, likely Wikle win Pinellas School Board bids

Pinellas District 1 School Board incumbent Janet Clark high fives Sami Leigh Scott as the two watch results come in for Barack Obama at Kizmet Old School Cafe in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

LARA CERRI | Times

Pinellas District 1 School Board incumbent Janet Clark high fives Sami Leigh Scott as the two watch results come in for Barack Obama at Kizmet Old School Cafe in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Incumbent Janet Clark earned a second term, and newcomer Nina Hayden won handily Tuesday, ending a campaign for the Pinellas County School Board that began 10 months ago with 13 candidates.

Clark maintained a lead of about 7 percentage points throughout the night in the District 1 at-large race, overshadowing Jennifer Crockett's second bid for a School Board seat.

Hayden, a lawyer in the Public Defender's Office, beat out high school social studies teacher Sean O'Flannery in the District 2 at-large race by a similar 7 percentage point margin.

The winner of a third race was harder to call late Tuesday, with Realtor Robin Wikle being just ahead of Palm Harbor chiropractor Ken Peluso for the North County District 4 seat. Wikle and Peluso, both first-time School Board candidates, finished within 2 percentage points of each other, mirroring their performance in the Aug. 26 primary.

Clark, Hayden and Wikle all were top vote getters in that earlier election but failed to secure a majority, forcing runoffs in the general election.

Tuesday's results guarantee two new faces on the seven-member board, which has seen little change over several election cycles. Despite the possibility of adding two males, the board remains all-female.

Clark, 54, said she is looking forward to working with the new members.

"It's over with, and I'm relieved," she said. "Maybe now we can get back to work on the board."

After campaigning on a platform of fiscal accountability and favoring a proposal to give individual schools a greater say in how they are run, the former middle school teacher said she will continue to push for middle and high school reform.

Hayden, 34, who positioned herself as the candidate most familiar with the needs of at-risk youths, said she was thankful for the confidence the voters placed in her.

"I'm going to focus on the same things I talked about in my platform," she said. "It wasn't just talk, it was about real issues that affect our kids."

Wikle, 45, who worked as a classroom assistant and special-education teacher in Pinellas schools before going into real estate with her husband, said she's looking forward to working with children, parents and teachers.

"My goal will be to tackle the graduation rate, increase the vocational programs and just work for better practices," she said.

The six candidates spent a combined $155,000 on their campaigns, with Wikle's expenses totaling more than $68,000. The new board will be officially constituted at the Nov. 18 School Board meeting.

Clark, Hayden, likely Wikle win Pinellas School Board bids 11/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 8:18pm]
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