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Pasco School Board chairman decides to seek second term

LAND O'LAKES — With his colleagues dropping like flies, Pasco School Board chairman Allen Altman has decided to seek re-election to a second term this fall.

"The next couple of years will see some very difficult budget cycles, and I think it's important to at least have some history and experience as we go through those," Altman said Wednesday.

Veteran board member Cathi Martin is not seeking another four-year term, and neither is one-term member Frank Parker. Kathryn Starkey, who won re-election in 2008, plans to resign to run for State House District 45.

"Even though I've only completed, so far, three years, I will be next year the senior person on the board," Altman said. "I feel a sense of obligation to try to make sure there is some continuity there."

He declared his candidacy as constituents in his east Pasco district began to wonder openly of his intentions. Altman had said he would announce his plans before the end of January, so a month later people were questioning whether they needed to find an alternate candidate.

Hopefuls are emerging quickly in the other three races, as qualifying looms just four months away.

The latest aspirants to put their names into contention are New Port Richey real estate agent Cynthia Armstrong, University of Central Florida student Harold F. Hedrick II and hotel sales director Karen King.

Armstrong is seeking to replace Martin in District 3, Hedrick hopes to win the District 4 seat that Starkey is leaving, and King is running for Parker's District 5 position.

The deadline for Starkey to resign to run for State House District 45 is June 4. Qualifying begins June 14 and ends June 18.

Armstrong, a former teacher who owns a real estate firm, said she believes she has the right experience to help the district work through the tough academic and financial issues it currently faces. She also served one term on the Pasco County Mosquito Control Board in the 1990s.

"I have a lot to offer to help solve the problems," said Armstrong, whose husband, Greg, heads the West Pasco Board of Realtors, which has clashed with superintendent Heather Fiorentino in the past over tax issues.

She said she would focus on "what is best for the school system and what is best for the students." That's particularly important when it comes to budget cuts, which she expected are inevitable.

The other candidate seeking the District 4 seat is New Port Richey lawyer Sallie Skipper.

Hedrick, a 21-year-old River Ridge High graduate, said he decided to run for School Board at the suggestion of neighbors. He's also got political ambitions: A leader of the University of Central Florida's College Republicans, Hedrick has actively supported Marco Rubio's bid for U.S. Senate, creating a Knights for Rubio Facebook fan page.

Hedrick has made some news in the past, as well. He drew attention to himself in calling for college students who have concealed weapons permits to be able to carry firearms on campus, in the wake of the 2008 deadly shooting at Virginia Tech. He still runs annual gun registration and safety outings for women at a shooting range in Pasco County, calling it a personal security initiative.

His views on guns do not extend to the Pasco County school system, though.

"I in no way advocate concealed carry (of a firearm) on a K-12 campus," Hedrick said.

Though still studying business administration at UCF, Hedrick said he would have time to meet all board member requirements, as most of his classes are virtual.

The other candidates running for Starkey's seat are civic activist Alison Crumbley, Early Learning Coalition board member Steven Kanakis, retired court reporter Billie Kaleel and church pastor John Tracy.

King, sales director for the Hilton Homewood Suites on U.S. 19, said she decided to run because she wants to help the school district become better. She had praise for the current board and administration, and added, "I can probably bring some things to the table."

She referred to her own experience as a single mother who raised two children through the system.

"I kind of know what it takes to push the kids," she said.

King serves on the county's Tourist Development Council, which makes recommendations on how to spend tourist tax revenue. She touts her experience in the business community and civic organizations, citing the motto of "service above self" as part of her motivation.

As for specific goals, King said she would like to see more school-business partnerships take hold. In many areas, though, she said, "I'm really still trying to learn about it."

One other candidate, local Tea Party organizer Donna Munsen, has filed papers to run for the District 5 seat.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Pasco School Board chairman decides to seek second term 02/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 8:44pm]
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