LAND O'LAKES — Joanne Hurley couldn't believe her fate.
Even with congratulatory calls clogging her phone Tuesday evening, Hurley didn't want to take her victory in Pasco School Board District 2 as a given.
Not until she checked the county election office Web site Wednesday morning and saw 100 percent of ballots were counted, and she had received 55.5 percent of the total, did she fully accept her victory.
"I was ready to win in November," she said, talking on her cell phone as she collected campaign signs from the road side. "I wasn't expecting to win last night."
Her campaign cut short by two months, the 63-year-old former teacher took some time to contemplate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead when she leaves her job as a community relations coordinator for the Suncoast Parkway to join the School Board.
In the short term, Hurley said, she plans to spend a lot of time researching district policies and procedures so she can "hit the ground running" when she takes the oath of office Nov. 19. She also intends to study issues that the board faces or can reasonably expect to face in the coming months.
"The biggest thing that is going to be swirling around in November … is trying to be sure we can balance our budget for the coming year," Hurley said. "The budget is going to take our attention front and center for quite a while."
Her top spending priority is to "keep the classroom whole, if at all possible." That means focusing money on high quality, effective teachers and giving them the equipment they need to do their job well.
"Things that impact children's learning are the things that ought to be prioritized," Hurley said. She added that although it might be unpopular to do things like charge user fees for extracurriculars, "you have to balance that with what is the core mission of the school, and that is to teach children."
Four-term board member Marge Whaley, whom Hurley replaces, said she felt confident her successor will carry on her tradition of listening to teachers and community members, asking tough questions of the administration and agitating for more board independence.
"Quite honestly, she's a lot like I am, I think," Whaley said of Hurley, whom she endorsed. "She's every inquisitive. She does her homework. That's one of the things, quite frankly, that got her elected."
Whaley predicted it will take some time for Hurley to learn the role of a board member, noting it takes a degree of effort to become effective. But she expected the newest board member to continue to push for revised policies, to seek an evaluation of the Learning Focused Solutions training model and more.
"I don't think she'll become discouraged easily," Whaley said.
Hurley accepted the challenge, and said she did expect to have a role similar to Whaley's on the board.
"I really think that I will be in the mold of Marge," she said.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.