Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gilzean's short time on Pinellas School Board has been full of surprises

His appointment four months ago by the governor to fill a vacant seat surprised some Pinellas School Board members — and many local leaders.

This week, Glenton Gilzean Jr. continued the theme, surprising his new colleagues when he announced at Tuesday's board meeting that he would write letters of recommendation for 75 students with middle-of-the-road GPAs who are eager to go to college.

"It's probably one of the most meaningful things I'm doing on the board," said Gilzean, 30, who is running to keep the District 7 seat Gov. Rick Scott asked him to fill after the death of longtime board member Lew Williams.

He is calling the initiative "Gilzean's Graduates."

Although they support student mentoring, several board members said they would have expected to have been apprised of the effort while it was in the planning stages.

Linda Lerner immediately requested the board receive written information about the program. "A board member can have impact by helping or being directly involved, but this sounds a little beyond that," she said later.

Lerner, the board's longest-serving member, was even more surprised to learn that the district sent out a news release promoting Gilzean's plan to visit Dixie Hollins, Lakewood and Gibbs high schools to select the students.

While members regularly visit schools, rarely if ever does the school district send out news releases about such a thing. "I don't know if I've ever known a board member to send out a press release," said Lerner, who has been on the board for 22 years.

A Republican Party activist, Gilzean's sudden arrival on the Pinellas education scene created waves with some community members who felt Scott made the selection for political reasons. Gilzean is the founder of Educate Today, a nonprofit designed to help low-income families sort through the educational options available to their kids.

Running against four challengers for the south Pinellas County School Board seat, Gilzean said his inspiration for the program has nothing to do with his political ambition.

"Is this a campaign thing?" he said. "I don't think so. Because this was something on my heart even prior to even knowing if I wanted to run for re-election."

Gilzean said that when he was in high school, he benefited when a mentor wrote him a letter of recommendation to accompany his own college applications.

After Scott appointed him in January, Gilzean said he talked with superintendent John Stewart about establishing a program to do something similar. He met with administrators and the wheels were set in motion.

The school district's April 24 news release said Gilzean would be talking with AVID students about "his career and his own experiences in high school." AVID is an elective program designed to give promising students from challenging circumstances the skills and training they need to be competitive college applicants.

Gilzean said the principals at each school identified the students they thought could use the boost. He then interviewed all 75 and now he plans to help them "tweak" their resumes and write their letters of recommendation. He said he hopes to recruit more mentors for Gilzean's Graduates and he welcomes the board member interest.

Like Lerner, board members Carol Cook, Robin Wikle, Peggy O'Shea and Terry Krassner said they're eager to hear more about "Gilzean's Graduates."

"It could raise some concerns or it could be a very good thing," Cook said. "What concerned me was the resumes for college. It would be a concern if he didn't in fact know the kids very well."

Cook, who is also running for re-election to her seat, said she's familiar with the concerns some have about politicians using their offices to campaign, but said that's open to interpretation.

"The problem is any time you do anything as a School Board member when you're running for election, it could be viewed as a campaign stunt," she said.

Sami Scott is a vocal School Board critic and former Gibbs High parent who frequently speaks up on issues related to African-American student success. She said Gilzean's initiative sounds like a great idea to her, even if it were to somehow benefit him politically.

"This, to me, is what School Board members ought to be doing," she said. "Unfortunately, our black male and female children have so few leaders to look up to who are really interested in their success."

Gilzean said that he feels being a School Board member has given him a unique opportunity to make a difference for students. "For me," he said, "the bigger picture is making sure we make an impact."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or rcatalanello@tampabay.com.

Gilzean's short time on Pinellas School Board has been full of surprises 05/11/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility

    World

    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia

    World

    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]