Thursday, January 18, 2018
Education

In Pasco schools race, Browning dominates Fiorentino in fundraising

LAND O'LAKES — Just seven weeks after announcing his candidacy, Kurt Browning is proving a formidable foe for Pasco schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino in one of the county's most-watched races.

The former elections supervisor raised almost three times as much money in campaign contributions as the two-term incumbent in the first quarter of the year. He also claimed some of her past supporters along the way.

"It boils down to leadership," said Browning, who collected $48,707 in his first round of campaign events. "My approach and my style are collaborative. I am not afraid of other peoples' ideas. That sums it up."

Fiorentino, who brought in $17,349, said she wasn't concerned about the challenge. She's seen tougher, she said, noting that she squeaked out a win in 2004 against Chuck Rushe even though he outraised her by $40,000 and had outgoing superintendent John Long in his corner.

Being superintendent has required some tough decisions over the years, she added, and that hasn't made everyone happy. So it's not surprising that some past supporters with vested interests, such as developers seeking lower impact fees, might turn to her competitor, she suggested.

"I'm going to stand on the record that this staff has done for children," Fiorentino said, citing improved graduation and lower dropout rates among the highlights of her tenure.

Browning acknowledged that campaign contributions don't win elections.

"But we've got to be able to get our message out," he said. "That takes money and people."

The people appear to be flocking to his campaign.

They include former School Board members Pam Coulter, Kathleen Wolf, Jean Weightman, Marge Whaley and Kathryn Starkey; Realtor F.I. Grey and Sons; funeral director Merl Faupel; and Center for Independence executive director Emile Laurino.

New Port Richey lawyer Jeff Lucas, who actively supported Fiorentino in 2004 and 2008, was among those to break with her this time around. Others who backed Fiorentino in the past and contributed to Browning this year include developers Dewey Mitchell and Deeb Family Homes.

"I'm very involved in Dayspring Academy," Lucas explained. "Dealing with her administration on the charter school, they're just very incompetent and difficult to deal with. It's been a problem."

Unlike her first superintendent campaign, when Fiorentino ran as a retiring state lawmaker with support from the political elite, this time her primary backing comes heavily from within the school district.

More than half of her 151 listed contributions came from school and district level administrators.

Leadership development director John Mann gave the largest contribution among district staffers, at $300.

"I'm very supportive of the superintendent," Mann said.

Fiorentino also received donations from former School Board member Frank Parker, West Pasco Republican Club leader Henry McAlarney and New Port Richey lawyer Sallie Skipper.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Updated: 11 hours ago
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

It’s decision time in Pinellas County and other local school districts as several school choice deadlines are upon us.For Pinellas families who want to apply for a magnet, fundamental or high school career program for the 2018-19 school year, the dea...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For FSU fraternity, a wild night turned tragic

For FSU fraternity, a wild night turned tragic

The night of initiation was the most that the brothers of Florida State University’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter said they had ever seen their pledge class drink.That was the plan, court records said: Pledges would arrive at the fraternity house Nov. 2 and ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

TALLAHASSEE — The death of a fraternity pledge from alcohol poisoning has led to hazing charges against nine Florida State University students.State attorney Jack Campbell filed charges on Wednesday in Leon County Court.All nine will be charged with ...
Published: 01/17/18
From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

As the Florida Legislature considers undoing the current governance of the University of South Florida by folding the three branches of its system into one entity, here is a look at some Times coverage of the long-running struggle for independence at...
Published: 01/17/18
How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

Just a satellite campus many decades ago, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg has managed to carve out considerable autonomy within the arms of the USF System. But a bill moving through the state House of Representatives could undo its sep...
Published: 01/17/18
A closer look at graduation rates. How did your school do?

A closer look at graduation rates. How did your school do?

Published: 01/17/18