Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A with School Board freshman Nina Hayden

Several topics took center stage in the long campaign that ended last week in the election of three candidates to the Pinellas County School Board.

Among them: the district's budget woes, a proposal to give principals, teachers and parents more control over individual schools, and middle and high school reform.

As the seven-member board prepares to reconstitute on Nov. 18, St. Petersburg Times education reporter Donna Winchester asked newcomer Nina Hayden, who won the District 2 at-large seat, to share her views on some issues that didn't get as much attention.

If the question ever came before the School Board, would you support expanding vouchers to allow struggling children to attend private schools?

I do not like the vouchers. I've been pretty clear on that. I think we need to support our public schools. The way to do that is to make sure money is going to them.

We already have an issue with less money coming from the Legislature. At this point, we have to stay focused on making Pinellas County public schools better, making them schools where people want to send their children. We have to make them places that provide education for children who are not achieving the way they should.

Some people say, "Instead of focusing on public education, let's put the money into the private schools because they have better opportunities for our kids." I think the focus should be on public schools.

There's a place for private schools, but the majority of our youth go to public schools. Saying vouchers force public schools to be competitive with private schools is an interesting way of looking at it, but to me, it's not a motivating factor to make schools better.

How would you tweak the new student assignment plan to make it work better?

I think we have to see how the plan is playing out before we can get any more specific in terms of what we can do as a board to improve on it.

The school year has just started. We need to do more observation.

What is your view on elementary and middle school students riding the same bus in order to save money on transportation?

I'm definitely in favor of looking into all the options we have for saving money on transportation.

That's the biggest chunk out of our budget right now. I'd have to see what our constituencies' concerns are, but allowing elementary and middle school students to ride together to save money is something I would definitely look into.

Do you think that teachers who work in high-poverty schools should get paid more to work there?

I think it would be a good motivating factor. That would be something that I would look into. I would look at the statistics and I would ask around, "Does this make sense?"

It appears the state Board of Education may have to adopt new academic standards by the end of 2011, including a new set of science standards, even though we recently went through a science standard adoption. If Florida has another crack at this, do you think the standards should be worded to include equal time for the teaching of intelligent design alongside the teaching of evolution?

No. I've been very clear about that. I do not believe that the science curriculum should include intelligent design.

I heard some of the other candidates say, "You have religion courses," but those are more on a college level.

I heard some of the candidates, even board members, say it could be an elective. I can't give you a definite answer on whether I would support that, but I definitely would not offer it in science class.

Obviously it's an issue of separation of church and state and bringing faith-based principles into the public school system. Our country was founded by individuals who had religious beliefs, but they also looked at when government should not support religion. Intelligent design has its place in faith-based organizations, not in our public school system. I stand pretty firm on that issue.

>>Fast Facts

About Nina Hayden

Age: 34

Education: Bachelor's in English-prelaw with a minor in business from Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Md., 1998; Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law, 2003

Employment: Attorney with the public defender's office, 6th Judicial Circuit

Hobbies: Singing, exercise, golf, politics

COMING UP: Q&A's with board members Janet Clark and Robin Wikle

Q&A with School Board freshman Nina Hayden 11/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 13, 2008 9:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida Insiders: The state parties are dying; 'I heard someone long for the leadership of Jim Greer'


    For all the attention on Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel's bone headed gaffe this week, the diminished state of the once mighty Florida GOP today compared to even a few years ago is arguably more striking than the condition of the long-suffering Florida Democratic Party. A decade ago, no one would have …

    Florida Insider Poll
  2. Florida Democrats surging with grassroots enthusiasm, but 2018 reality is grim

    State Roundup

    After Donald Trump's election, so many people started showing up at monthly Pinellas County Democratic Party meetings, the group had to start forking out more money for a bigger room.

    Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses Florida Democrats at the Leadership Blue Gala on June 17 in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo by Carol Porter)
  3. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]
  4. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy


    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Four questions with Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith before he helps lead the St. Pete Pride parade

    Human Interest

    A decade ago, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith was afraid to tell his friends and family he was gay.

    Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith will serve as a grand marshal at the St. Pete Pride parade on Saturday. [City of Largo]