High-stakes testing. Parental involvement. Budget cuts. Early childhood education.
These were among the hot topics Saturday during a two-hour public forum with candidates running for the Pinellas County School Board.
Nine candidates for two seats kept it mostly civil during the event at the James B. Sanderlin Family Center in St. Petersburg. About 100 people came out to listen, submitting handwritten questions to a moderator from the League of Women Voters.
Board member Glenton Gilzean was the lone voice against an anti-testing resolution. Gilzean, who faces four challengers for the District 7 seat, said Florida needs accountability. But he agreed that "we do over-test our students."
Shelly Ladd-Gilbert, one of three challengers running against Janet Clark for the countywide District 1 seat, said her daughter had to be medicated for anxiety a week before the FCAT.
Corey Givens Jr. — the youngest candidate at age 20 — drew laughs when he said he was the only candidate who actually took the FCAT in school.
Candidates agreed with each other on several topics: that the district needs to get parents more involved in the schools, strengthen early childhood efforts and tackle low graduation rates among black males.
One question, about whether creationism should be taught in biology classes, drew a range of responses. Givens and Elliott Stern, who's running in District 1, agreed that there was room to teach about evolution and creationism.
"As long as it's facts that are being taught in our schools, that's what counts," Stern said.
Cassandra Jackson, who's running in District 7, prompted laughter when she paused and said, "I guess if we're going to tell the truth, tell the whole truth, under God."
Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,(727)-893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.