TAMPA — The teachers union in Hillsborough County will endorse challenger Richard Bartels over incumbent Jennifer Faliero for the School Board race in District 4, officials said Thursday.
Bartels, 61, served for 38 years as a teacher and administrator in the district, most recently as principal at Freedom High School. Until he became an administrator, he was also a member of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
"Richard was able to speak concretely as to how specific programs may or may not work in buildings across the district," said union executive director Nick Whitman, referring to candidate interviews held Monday by the union. "The fact that he could be so precise was very, very helpful." Bartels got the endorsement over Faliero and two other candidates.
In the campaign for two other seats on the board, the union is backing incumbents Candy Olson in District 2, which represents southern Hillsborough, and April Griffin in the countywide District 6 race. Both face challengers in the Aug. 24 primary and, possibly, a Nov. 4 runoff.
Supporting a challenger isn't unprecedented for teachers unions, but it's unusual.
Faliero, 46, has served two terms in District 4 representing eastern Hillsborough County. She didn't earn the union's endorsement during her first race, but it backed her in 2006.
"I am surprised but this doesn't detract from my goal," she said. "I do know that teachers support me, even if the union leadership doesn't."
Bartels said he appreciates the union's support and intends to make the most of it.
"I think it speaks to her (Faliero's) performance over the last four years," he said.
Whitman praised Faliero for her support of the district's $202 million partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as her "strong and public opposition" to a failed state tenure reform bill.
But he said the union board was swayed by Bartels' long professional experience in the district, as well as his demonstrated support for the union.
"The way he described it, he would still be a member if he had not been kicked out due to our prohibition on (admitting) administrators," Whitman said.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400.