Friday, May 25, 2018
Education

Pinellas School Board member Glenton Gilzean takes job with voucher organization

Pinellas County School Board member Glenton Gilzean has taken a job with a nonprofit organization that provides low-income students with state vouchers to help pay private school tuition.

Gilzean, 30, will start Monday with Step Up for Students. As executive director of advocacy and outreach, he will lobby educators, community leaders and elected officials about the state's tax-credit scholarships.

Gilzean said he doesn't view the new job as a conflict of interest.

Doug Tuthill, president of the Jacksonville-based organization, called Gilzean a "great young talent" and said Gilzean will primarily press the organization's interests with state legislators — who can directly affect the program — not school districts.

"I don't ever see him lobbying the School Board or any other school board," Tuthill said.

In an email to board members, Gilzean said he viewed the job as a "perfect complement to our shared vision of 100 percent student success."

School Board attorney David Koperski said he couldn't speak specifically to the issue until he knew more about the job. He said he planned to talk to Gilzean today. He said it's not uncommon for a board member to have an outside job, but there "could be a situation where the conflict is so great that (a board member) couldn't do both."

Gilzean said his new job will allow him flexibility to attend School Board meetings and events. He will be able to work in Step Up's Tampa office as well as in St. Petersburg.

Vouchers often are unpopular with teachers unions and public educators because they view vouchers as taking money from public schools.

Gilzean said he hopes the new job "would spark a good conversation about how we can all work together."

The state's tax-credit scholarships are paid for with diverted tax money, rather than directly from the state's coffers. Corporations, for instance, can direct a portion of their owed taxes to the scholarship program rather than the state. More than 50,000 students were approved for scholarships this year.

About 1,700 students used them in Pinellas County this year, Gilzean said.

He was appointed to the School Board by Gov. Rick Scott in January to fill the position left open after School Board member Lew Williams died.

Gilzean faces a tough re-election fight against Rene Flowers, a former St. Petersburg City Council member, for his District 7 seat. The runoff vote is Nov. 6. Flowers received nearly 48 percent of the vote in the primary election. Gilzean got nearly 16 percent.

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