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Pinellas school board candidates face questions at forum

Pinellas County School Board District 1 candidates, from left, Elliott Stern, Jim Jackson, Janet R. Clark and Shelly Ladd-Gilbert listen to instructions as they face off during a forum Thursday at Osceola High School. 

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Pinellas County School Board District 1 candidates, from left, Elliott Stern, Jim Jackson, Janet R. Clark and Shelly Ladd-Gilbert listen to instructions as they face off during a forum Thursday at Osceola High School. 

Two members of the Pinellas County School Board worked hard Thursday to play up their strengths and distinguish themselves from a diverse and crowded field of opponents.

In one race, it was a battle between old guard against new guard.

Board member Glenton Gilzean, a newcomer to Pinellas who was appointed to the District 7 seat by Gov. Rick Scott, played up his experience working with the state Department of Education. He said none of the other four candidates had a plan to fix schools.

Rene Flowers, a former St. Petersburg City Council member, struck back in her closing statement, noting the "depth and breadth" of her experience in the community, including her work on affordable housing.

"So Mr. Gilzean, I ask you, what you have you done?" she said.

Another opponent, Corey Givens Jr., alluded to Gilzean's endorsement from former Gov. Jeb Bush, saying Bush was responsible for most of the unfunded mandates facing the school district.

Board member Janet Clark, who's seeking a third term in District 1, a countywide seat, faced three opponents who said the slate of candidates for superintendent was inadequate and that the board needed a change.

"Change takes time, but it can happen more quickly through effective leadership and teamwork," she said.

Clark said she wouldn't know if the superintendent candidates were adequate until she had a chance to interview them.

The two-hour forum attracted about 50 people to Osceola High School in Largo. The Pinellas County Council of PTAs hosted the event, which included a series of narrative questions and a lightning round in which candidates were limited to yes or no answers.

In the lightning round, all candidates except Clark and Jim Jackson, in District 1, were opposed to longer school days. All except Flowers were in favor of abolishing early release Wednesdays.

In District 7, only Gilzean was in favor of privatizing some non-instructional district services. In District 1, only Clark was against it.

Pinellas school board candidates face questions at forum 07/26/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 26, 2012 11:34pm]
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