Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Education

Incumbent's voting record questioned in Pasco School Board race

LAND O'LAKES — With candidate qualifying still months away, the political gloves have already come out in the race for Pasco School Board District 2 representing central Pasco County.

Candidate Don Stephenson, seeking to distinguish himself from incumbent Joanne Hurley, has put out a campaign flier blasting Hurley's record.

Specifically, he targeted Hurley's recorded votes, which school district reports show never included a "no" during her tenure.

"Joanne Hurley has never voted against ANYTHING," the political ad states. "Think about that. While our schools are in severe financial dire straits, she voted to approve every single expenditure requested of the School Board. And that should give each one of us pause."

Stephenson, a 40-year-old advertising creative director for the 22squared advertising agency, said in an interview that Hurley's support for such expenditures as $8.8 million for new business software, as well as smaller items such as staff travel or board member iPads, prompted him to challenge her re-election bid.

"The individual who represents my district, I don't feel she has been discerning in her almost four years on the board," he said. "I have seen some items I would have voted no on. She has never voted no."

Hurley, seeking a second term after retiring as spokeswoman for the Suncoast Parkway, said Stephenson's interpretation of her record is overly simplistic.

She noted, for instance, that the board has made motions in the past to reject administrative proposals, such as a 2012-13 calendar that did not include a full week off for Thanksgiving. Her "yes" vote on that motion actually was a rejection of the staff position.

"If somebody makes a motion against and I vote for it, it's still a vote against," said Hurley, 67.

As either chairman or vice chairman over the past three years, Hurley added, she has had ample opportunity to shape the items that appear on the board's agenda. Some staff proposals never see the light of day until board concerns are handled, making it more likely that members will offer support, she explained.

For instance, the board refused to accept the superintendent's written proposal nearly three years ago to spend $15 million on a new administration building, so the staff removed the item from the budget before any formal action.

"This board is very involved and very active," she said. "We make our views known."

Hurley pointed to lengthy deliberations on the four-day school week this spring as another example that she's not willing to accept every idea that comes to the table. But even her rejection of that idea didn't appear as a "no" vote, as the concept never got past the workshop stage for formal consideration.

"I'm perfectly happy with my voting record," said Hurley, also a former teacher.

Stephenson, who has two of his children in the system, insisted that when the district is crying financial distress, some tough "no" votes are required. He further criticized Hurley for supporting a local option property tax for critical operating needs, which voters did not allow the board to renew.

"Rather than eliminating waste and focusing only on essentials, she favored simply taking more money out of your wallet," he stated in the flier. "Thankfully, Pasco voters told her no."

He wouldn't go so far as to accuse Hurley of being a rubber stamp, but said, "if the shoe fits, wear it."

Hurley said she had not met Stephenson and did not know much about him. That didn't matter to her, though.

"I'm going to tout myself," she said, "and not talk about my opponent."

Qualifying for the election comes in early June. The deadline to turn in petition signatures to make the ballot arrives on May 7.

Hurley already has submitted the needed 2,980 signatures. Stephenson has not, but said he will pay the $1,456 filing fee if he does not complete the petition. No other candidates have emerged for the District 2 seat.

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
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions.They also said that as a result of his actions, he will not at...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Battle continues over west Pasco school rezoning

Jim Stanley does not give up without a fight.The west Pasco County parent who brought down the school district’s 2017 attendance zone revisions, leading the administration to change its procedures along the way, has filed a new challenge to the syst...
Published: 04/24/18
Crews Lake eighth-grader already capable musician

Crews Lake eighth-grader already capable musician

SPRING HILL — Rose Dodd, 2 months old, couldn’t yet grasp a rattle, but there she was years ago at hand-bell choir practice at Keystone United Methodist Church in Odessa.Rose, 14, a Crews Lakes Middle School eighth-grader, is back at hand-bell practi...
Published: 04/24/18
Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District is in bad financial shape and its reputation for sound management is perhaps undeserved, the district’s own fiscal team testified Monday in a hearing concerning teacher salaries.The district "made finan...
Published: 04/23/18

School news for April 27

School Calendar• May 17-20: High school graduations• May 25: Last day of school for studentsBriefs• School Safety Town Hall Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. May 2 at River Ridge Middle/High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey and 6 to 8 p....
Published: 04/23/18
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18