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Gilzean joins crowded Pinellas District 7 school board race

Glenton Gilzean Jr. has made it official: He wants to stay.

Gov. Rick Scott's appointee to the Pinellas County School Board on Monday filed papers to join the race to fill the seat left vacant by the late Lew Williams.

Gilzean, 30, a former state Department of Education staffer, burst on the Pinellas education scene in January after news of his appointment broke.

He said he talked with his family over Easter dinner Sunday and decided to throw his hat in the race.

"I believe that if I continue to do a good job," Gilzean said Tuesday, "then the voters will keep me on board. And that's the best kind of accountability there is."

Gilzean moved to St. Petersburg from Tampa in November and changed his voter registration to Pinellas County shortly after Williams' death in December.

His presence on the board sparked skepticism among some of those involved in issues related to educating St. Petersburg's African-American youth, largely because they worried about his lack of familiarity with the district.

Gilzean comes to the position from Educate Today, a nonprofit organization he founded while attending graduate school at University of South Florida. Educate Today aims to help poor families identify educational options available to them, including whether they are well-suited to receive vouchers to attend private schools.

A former young leader in the Hillsborough County Republican scene, Gilzean joins a diverse — and crowded — field of candidates for the seat. Also running are: former St. Petersburg City Council member Rene Flowers, 47; Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School paraprofessional Cassandra Jackson, 52; lawyer and repeat District 7 candidate Keisha Bell, 37; and USF student and recent Lakewood High graduate Corey Givens Jr., 20.

District 7 covers most of the southern tip of Pinellas County, including St. Petersburg south of 54th Avenue N, Kenneth City, Gulfport and South Pasadena. School Board members oversee a $1.3 billion budget and a K-12 school system with about 101,000 students and nearly 14,000 full-time employees.

Though board members typically serve four-year terms, this nonpartisan election will be for the remainder of Williams' term, which ends in 2014. Candidates have until noon on June 8 to qualify for the Aug. 14 primary election.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or rcatalanello@tampabay.com.

Gilzean joins crowded Pinellas District 7 school board race 04/10/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:38pm]
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