Monday, April 23, 2018
Education

New school board member meets St. Petersburg NAACP

ST. PETERSBURG — There was reason to suspect the brand new School Board member's visit to the St. Petersburg NAACP Monday might turn combative.

Glenton "Glen" Gilzean didn't even live in Pinellas County until November, but got picked by Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the board that oversees more than 100,000 students.

And Monday night, the 29-year-old came to talk with about 10 NAACP leaders who admired the late Lew Williams, whom Gilzean replaced.

Former St. Petersburg NAACP President Ray Tampa asked Gilzean if he had known Williams and "whether you have any idea what his vision is?"

While Gilzean acknowledged he did not know Williams, he said he had a recent breakfast meeting with Williams' wife to discuss her late husband's vision. And he agreed to keep meeting with her, as much as once a week.

Gilzean said he had learned that when Williams dealt with School Board matters, "no matter what happened, it was always about the student first." Gilzean also said Williams believed in good preschools to get kids ready for elementary schools.

"Although I did not have a personal relationship with the gentleman," he said, "I do have a working relationship with his widow."

Gilzean's answers set some of the NAACP members at ease. Tampa, for one, said Gilzean appeared knowledgeable about education issues and "he seems open to listening."

Gilzean said he will hold office hours open to anyone who wants to discuss education issues. He wants to find ways to better coordinate preschool programs. He wants to improve student achievement. He defended his support of educational vouchers, which some in the audience questioned.

He also acknowledged being an average student himself, with a 2.9 high school GPA and a 3.0 at the University of South Florida. But, he said, he did make good choices, and said students need guidance on how to do the same.

Gilzean said he hopes young people of color will look at him and see a man who graduated from college and formed a nonprofit employing 50 people around the state. And he hopes they will realize "that they can do it too. That's the exciting part."

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