The past two years have been relatively calm for the Pinellas County School District, with few disagreements among School Board members and a new superintendent, Mike Grego, who has stabilized the system after multiple changes in leadership.
But that hasn't deterred candidates who say they can do better. All four incumbents up for re-election will face challengers in the August primary election, and three candidates will vie for the seat to be vacated soon by board member Robin Wikle.
In all, by Friday's qualifying deadline, 11 candidates signed up to compete for five seats on the seven-member board.
For the District 2 at-large seat, incumbent Terry Krassner, a former elementary school principal, is running for a second term against Chris Tauchnitz of Oldsmar, a senior software engineer at VeriFone Inc. Tauchnitz has two children in Pinellas schools, and his wife works as a teacher in the system.
In District 3, another at-large seat, incumbent Peggy O'Shea is running for a third term. O'Shea, a professional mediator and civic leader in the Palm Harbor area, is opposed by Kent Curtis, an environmental history professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He also is the founder and former director of the Edible Peace Patch Project, a group that promotes school gardens.
When Wikle announced in February she would leave her north county seat early for personal reasons, she vowed to remain in office through November to allow her successor to be elected rather than appointed by the governor.
At Friday's deadline, the three candidates emerging to fill the remaining two years of Wikle's term were former Tarpon Springs mayor Beverley Billiris, who is a teacher at Tarpon Springs Elementary; John H. Nygren, who has more than 35 years' experience as a secondary school math teacher in Massachusetts and Florida; and Ken Peluso, a retired chiropractor who formerly chaired the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County and ran against Wikle in 2008.
Linda Lerner, who has been on the board since 1990, represents District 6, which includes north St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Seminole and the south Pinellas beaches. She will be opposed by Maureen Ahern, a former journalist and a small business owner who has been active in civic groups.
Former St. Petersburg City Council member Rene Flowers was elected to the board in 2012 to complete the term of deceased board member Lew Williams. She is running for her first full term on the board.
She is opposed by Irene Olive Cates, a former chef and co-founder of a nonprofit organization focused on social issues. Cates qualified as a write-in candidate.