Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Schools superintendent candidates Donaldson, Fiorentino showcase differences

NEW PORT RICHEY — They've spent much of their campaign so far at the grassroots level, working to improve name recognition with signs and door-to-door canvassing.

On Tuesday, Pasco superintendent of schools candidates Heather Fiorentino and Stephen Donaldson finally faced off in a 45-minute debate about the issues.

Fiorentino, the Republican incumbent, sought to capitalize upon the successes of her four-year term. She spoke about the district's increasing academic performance, its improved methods of communicating with parents and its first-ever strategic plan for the future.

"We have a strong cornerstone and I'd like to continue to build upon that," she said.

Challenger Donaldson, meanwhile, took aim at some of what he considered Fiorentino's failures and offered himself as a different type of leader.

"Under my administration, the way to have a minute with the superintendent is going to be easy," said Donaldson, a Democrat, suggesting Fiorentino's is not accessible enough.

On several issues, the candidates essentially agreed.

Both saw no way to fully implement the class-size amendment at the classroom level with the existing economy, for instance. Both also found the state and federal governments to have placed too many unfunded mandates on local schools, limiting local control. And they expressed support for charter schools, so long as the district maintains a level of oversight over them.

But they also found much room for disagreement.

One key area centered on employee morale.

Fiorentino acknowledged that morale is poor, and said she needed to do more to improve communications with the district's employees. But she contended that the economy has more to do with the problems than her leadership, and added that the employees union has also made it hard to work together.

"It is much easier when you have money and can give raises," Fiorentino said, calling the district a "team" that must come together for the good of the students.

Donaldson questioned Fiorentino's commitment to the team, though, saying a true team leader would inspire and collaborate to solve problems.

"It's not hard to raise morale," he said. "But you have to make communication transparent, you have to make it open and you have to make it two-way."

The two also sparred over a teacher training program called Learning Focused Strategies, which many teachers hate. The district has spent more than $4-million implementing it.

"LFS will become a teacher option the day I take office," said Donaldson, who teaches social studies at Gulf High. "As a teacher, a very passionate teacher, I don't need that kind of structure in order to educate my kids."

Maybe not, Fiorentino countered, but the district has many new teachers, several of whom did not attend a college of education to learn things such as classroom management and best teaching practices.

Learning Focused Strategies gave the district a "common vocabulary" for teaching children, using research-tested strategies that work, she said. The district had to put something in place because of federal guidelines, whether it was LFS or some other program, she added.

"It is a good program," she said, though admitting that its implementation was "a mess."

Fiorentino insisted that the district has no money for raises or annual step increases, while Donaldson stated "the money is there" if priorities are reset.

Donaldson said that schools could be safer, and said he would put metal detectors at every door if the money were available. Fiorentino talked about all the district efforts to improve school safety, but also agreed that more can be done.

The candidates are scheduled to debate again on Oct. 20 in Dade City. The election is Nov. 4.

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.

Schools superintendent candidates Donaldson, Fiorentino showcase differences 10/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 2:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hernando approves new trash-collection contract; customers get price increase

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A unanimous County Commission on Tuesday approved a seven-year extension to the garbage-collection contract with Republic Services, an agreement that will bring higher prices, county-provided garbage cans and automated trucks to lift and mechanically dump cans.

    s
Republic Services will to switch to automated trucks, similar to this vehicle used by Progressive Waste Solutions in Hillsborough County, under its contract extension with Hernando County.
  2. Old Coachman Road in Clearwater closed due to depression in road

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Police shut down Old Coachman Road south of NE Coachman Road in both directions Wednesday morning because of a depression in the roadway.

    Police shut down Old Coachman Road south of NE Coachman Road in both directions in Clearwater on July 26, 2017, because of a depression in the roadway. [Clearwater Fire Rescue]
  3. Clearwater-based USAmeriBanc acquired by New Jersey bank in $816 million deal

    Banking

    By Times Staff Writer

    CLEARWATER -- USAmeriBancorp, Inc., based in Clearwater, is being acquired by New Jersey's Valley National Bancorp in a $816 million deal, it was announced today.

  4. Outback Steakhouse sees growth in U.S. and Brazil markets in second quarter

    Retail

    TAMPA — Restaurant sales were up at Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's Italian Grill during the second quarter of 2017, but Bonefish Grill continues to lag at Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands.

    The Outback Steakhouse, on 4088 Park St. N, is showin on July 26, 2017. Restaurant sales were up at Outback Steakhouse  and Carrabba's Italian Grill during the second quarter of 2017, but Bonefish Grill continues to lag at Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  5. Florida education news: #HB7069 lawsuits, budgets, teacher's union tussle and more

    Blogs

    #HB7069 LAWSUIT: The tally of Florida school boards taking legal action against the state has risen to five. On Tuesday three school boards from Bay, The Pinellas County School Board meets in August 2015 at district headquarters in Largo.