Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In District 7, Pinellas School Board candidates differ in volume

ST. PETERSBURG — All night, parents had been pleading their case before Pinellas County School Board members.

Don't move our school, one side said. Please move our school, said the other side.

In the thick of this emotional community forum at Gibbs High School last week, District 7 School Board candidate Jim Jackson rose to take the microphone, turned around to face the audience and addressed parents from the disagreeing sides.

"Stand up and give yourselves a round of applause," the 66-year-old retired professor said, clapping for both sides and nodding before launching into a quick speech that ended with him pointing at board members and telling them to listen to their constituents.

Not far away, Jackson's challenger, Lew Williams, sat quietly, listening, but not at all happy. The 67-year-old retired school administrator believed what Jackson did was, in his words, grandstanding, and not at all appropriate for this forum.

This was a place, Williams later said, where candidates like them should be listening. "I thought it was unprofessional," Williams said. "And he made that group feel as though he had their best interest at heart."

In the nonpartisan runoff for Pinellas County's District 7 representing south Pinellas County, this might just be the biggest difference between the candidates: volume.

Though Williams was the top vote getter in a three-way August primary, his manner is more reserved. If he were elected, he would be the only minority on the seven-member board. His resume boasts almost 35 years as a Pinellas County teacher, principal and area superintendent, plus a slew of endorsements that include everyone from the teachers union to retiring board member Mary Brown to former race opponent Keisha Brown, who finished last in the primary.

Still, when he walks precincts on a Saturday, he worries about waking sleepers-in. When he delivers a speech before a room of potential voters, his relaxed, slightly Southern accent stands in contrast to the confident staccato of his competitor.

"He's the ultimate gentleman, and I guess I'm not," said Jackson, who touts himself as a district outsider beholden only to his constituents. "Sometimes you have to speak a little louder and, you know, you have to make your point."

When Jackson calls voters, he's quick to give his biography and asks about what educational issues are most important to them. Jackson moved to Tampa Bay three years ago after 31 years of teaching psychology at Miami-Dade College. He quickly threw himself into local politics. He helped lead the St. Petersburg effort to elect Barack Obama president, an experience that allowed him to surround himself with politically savvy friends who would ultimately help him launch his first campaign for public office.

While Jackson's primary numbers weren't as high as he wanted — he took 33 percent of the vote to Williams' 39 percent — his fundraising numbers are. He boasts a $38,568 campaign chest compared with Williams' $14,195.

But Rene Flowers, Williams' campaign manager, said Williams' focus has not been on money.

"Lew is a worker," she said. "He's never been a loud man. And quite frankly, I think we have enough people yelling and screaming and pointing fingers."

Williams says Jackson's ideas are based in theory, not experience, and his manner potentially divisive rather than influential. Jackson says Williams is old-school and lacks the political support to win majority votes of the board. Still, when it comes to issues, the two candidates aren't always that far apart.

Both say they oppose to a plan by superintendent Julie Janssen to move Lakeview Fundamental to Gulfport Elementary in order to add more fundamental seats — the very issue that generated the debate at Gibbs that night.

And while Jackson never said what side he was on when he approached the microphone that evening, he says he revealed his stance to parents who talked with him afterward.

Despite Williams' criticism, Jackson doesn't apologize for pointing at board members or cheering the parents who spoke.

"Am I not to use these opportunities to get media time?" Jackson said. "Truly. What am I to do?"

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or


On key issues

If elected, one of the first votes the District 7 School Board member will take

is on a sweeping plan

by superintendent

Julie Janssen affecting

student assignment.

Here's where Lew Williams and Jim Jackson say they stand on some of the issues that could be on the Dec. 7 agenda for a final vote:

Fundamental school-within-a-school at Boca Ciega High School

Lew Williams: Supports

the idea, but cautions that making a school like Boca Ciega fully fundamental could adversely affect surrounding schools if students with less parental support are kicked out.

Jim Jackson: Supports

the idea, but would rather see all schools become


Mandatory uniforms in K-8

Williams: Likes uniforms, but wants school communities to decide for themselves if they are appropriate

for their children.

Jackson: Undecided,

sees the pros and cons

of both sides.

Switching Lakeview Fundamental Elementary and Gulfport Elementary building sites

Williams: Believes there's a better way to find additional fundamental seats. Worries about disrupting a successful program like Lakeview's.

Jackson: Favors keeping Lakeview where it is.

In District 7, Pinellas School Board candidates differ in volume 10/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 12:06am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: First day of fall brings more showers, humidity to Tampa Bay


    More moisture will filter into the Tampa Bay area on Friday, the official start of fall, allowing for higher rain chances through the day and beginning half of the weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Polk childcare workers who berated autistic child turn themselves in (w/video)


    WINTER HAVEN — Two childcare workers are facing child abuse charges after a Snapchat video surfaced of them berating, taunting and throwing a backpack at an 8-year-old autistic child.

    Police are searching for two childcare workers - Kaderrica Smith, 26, and Alexis Henderson, 20 - after a Snapchat video surfaced of them berating, taunting and throwing a backpack at an 8-year-old Autistic child in Winter Haven. [Winter Haven Police Department]
  3. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
  4. Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us


    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on …

    A Fort Myers woman who'd recently undergone a double-organ transplant painted a sign that said, "HOT SINGLE FEMALE SEEKS SEXY LINEMAN TO ELECTRIFY HER LIFE" and sure enough, she got her power turned back on. [Photo from video]
  5. Florida education news: Makeup days, accountability, charter schools and more


    MAKEUP DAYS: The Pasco County school district alters the daily schedule of 11 schools to make up teaching time missed because of Hurricane Irma, avoiding the …

    With students back in school after Hurricane Irma, schools across Florida begin scheduling makeup days for missed classroom time.