Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando County teachers union endorses School Board challengers

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board is in need of some fresh perspective.

That was the assessment offered by the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association on Friday as the teachers union announced its candidate endorsements.

In all three of the nonpartisan races, the union picked the challengers over the incumbents.

"It really comes down to the fact that we need new direction," union president Joe Vitalo said.

In the District 1 race, the union chose Nilsa Colon Toro over first-term incumbent John Sweeney. Toro, the sole challenger, is a former paraprofessional who now works as a receptionist at Springstead High School in Spring Hill.

"Her representation on the School Board would bring a voice and understanding to two mainly silenced groups within our community: to all hourly waged taxpayers and to the ever fast-growing Hispanic population," Vitalo wrote in the endorsement announcement. "Though the incumbent John Sweeney is a former teacher, and a business owner, we feel that his connection to the constituents of Hernando County is narrow when compared to those of Ms. Toro."

In the District 3 race, the union picked Keane Chapman, a national sales manager for Alumi-Guard Inc. in Brooksville, over Dianne Bonfield, a former teacher who is nearing the end of her first term. Chapman is Bonfield's sole challenger.

"His skills in business and management lends to a much-needed stability and forward-thinking," Vitalo wrote of Chapman.

In the District 5 race, the union essentially told voters to pick either of two challengers over Sandra Nicholson, a board veteran with 16 years of experience.

Mike Bainum is a vocational teacher at Hernando High in Brooksville. Cynthia Moore is a retired teacher who once had the position Vitalo holds now.

"We feel that when it comes to finding out what is going on, both Mr. Bainum and Ms. Moore bring in a new and fresh perspective for 'building bridges,' " Vitalo wrote.

All three incumbents declined to be interviewed by the union. Bonfield and Sweeney both issued statements in recent weeks saying they considered it a conflict of interest to seek the endorsement or accept donations from a group that negotiates a contract with the district.

Vitalo said the union did not hold that decision against the incumbents, but the move forced the group to base its decisions solely on their record.

During interviews, union officials "focused on the candidate's ability and plan of action to connect with the public, gather unbiased information and their decision-making process," Vitalo said.

The current board's actions during the tumultuous tenure of former superintendent Wayne Alexander also figured in the recommendations. The board waffled on the decision to keep Alexander despite calls from the union to fire him, Vitalo said, shaking the union's confidence.

"The entire process showed that in order for the School Board to address the needs of our diverse community and not to have history repeat itself, it is time for a changing of the guard," he said.

The board has faltered on other tough decisions since then, too, Vitalo said. The incumbents have so far refused to levy an additional quarter-mill of property tax, a move that the union says is crucial to help fund education.

All three incumbents have been pretty teacher-friendly, however.

They were part of a board that voted unanimously two years ago to ratify a contract that gave teachers a 2.39 percent average pay increase for the current year, plus 1.5 percent more to cover health care increases.

Last year, the board denied the union's request that it contribute more toward family health insurance plans, but did agree to absorb more of the overall premium increase from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Board members have been adamant about avoiding layoffs despite a brutal budget picture.

Those kinds of stances are only part of the union's considerations, Vitalo insisted.

"We're looking out for more than ourselves," he said.

None of the incumbents returned calls seeking comment Friday.

All three races will be on the Aug. 24 primary ballot. If one of the candidates in the three-way race doesn't win a majority of votes, the two with the highest number of votes will be on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Hernando County teachers union endorses School Board challengers 07/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 9:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buccaneers defense was among NFL's best when its pressure got to the QB

    Bucs

    It doesn't matter how many times they've thrown a football. It doesn't matter how many seasons they've played. It doesn't matter whether they have a degree from Harvard or Central Florida.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded 6.5 sacks last season, but many of his other contributions didn't show up in the box scores. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

  2. What you need to know for Thursday, June 29

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    See that thing in the water? No? That's the point. It's that time of the year when stingrays are often lurking in the sand, often not visibly. Remember to do the stingray shuffle if you're out at the beach this weekend. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  3. Pinellas beaches seeing fewer injuries from stingrays, but the summer is still young

    Environment

    FORT DE SOTO — Rebecca Glidden leaned back in her lifeguard chair, watching behind sunglasses as families splashed in the water at Fort De Soto's North Beach.

    A Clearwater water safety supervisor demonstrates the stingray shuffle. Pinellas beaches are reporting relatively few injuries from stingrays so far this year, but they anticipate more as the summer wears on. Officials are reminding beachgoers to do the shuffle when they enter the water and keep an eye out for purple flags flying from the lifeguard towers, which indicate stingray activity. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. Weeki Wachee River advocates agree to work to resolve issues

    Local Government

    WEEKI WACHEE — Degradation of the Weeki Wachee River is a complex mix of circumstances, with a variety of jurisdictions holding the authority to fix the problems. That has made finding solutions over the years more about frustration than success.

    A boat and kayak drift into one another as they share the narrow passage near Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River in March. Advocates fear too many vessels are damaging the river.
  5. Despite change in Cuba policy, cruise ships sail on

    Tourism

    TAMPA -- It's smooth sailing for cruises from Tampa to Havana, with the first of Carnival Cruise Line's 12 such excursions launching today, two months after Royal Caribbean's initial voyage from Port Tampa Bay to the island.

    The Empress of the Seas cruise ship docks at the Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal 3 in Tampa. President Donald 

Trump's new Cuba policy may not hurt cruises to Havana at all. In fact, it may help these cruises. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times