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Pinellas County School Board District 7

Pinellas County School Board | District 7

This seat came open after two-term incumbent Mary Brown decided not to run. It pits longtime Pinellas educator Lew Williams against Jim Jackson, a retired professor who moved to St. Petersburg three years ago and became politically involved, and Keisha Bell, a homegrown St. Petersburg resident who has made a career of public service through legal and community groups.

About the job: District 7 covers St. Petersburg south of 54th Avenue, Kenneth City, Gulfport and South Pasadena. School Board members oversee a $1.35 billion budget and a K-12 school system with more than 103,000 students and nearly 14,000 full-time employees. They serve four-year terms and are paid $37,010 a year.

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Know Your Candidates 2010 Primary. More candidate profiles.

Keisha Bell, 36

Jim Jackson, 65

Retired professor
Lew Williams, 67

Retired administrator,
Experience Bell has worked with the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg since 2008, overseeing a federal grant aimed at reducing diabetes and childhood obesity in the black community. Formerly worked with Community Tampa Bay Inc. and Florida Rural Legal Services. She is also a self-employed lawyer and published author. Jackson taught psychology at Miami-Dade College 31 years before retiring in 1999. Adjunct professor at University of Hawaii in 1981 and St. Petersburg College, 2007-08. Worked on several campaigns, including Barack Obama in 2008. Involved in Stonewall Democrats, Old Southeast Neighborhood Association. Retired in 2005 from Pinellas County School District, Williams rose from social studies teacher to principal to area superintendent over 35 years. Co-owner of Kidz World Day Care since 2001. On board of directors for YMCA Clearwater, Community Pride Day Care Center and Pinellas County Urban League. Involved in NAACP.
Education Dixie Hollins High, St. Petersburg. Bachelor's in psychology from University of Central Florida. Juris doctor from Florida State University. Bachelor's and master's from Ohio State University. Ph.D. from Florida State University. Post-doctoral at University of Hawaii. Jones High School, Orlando. Bachelor's, Allen University, Columbia, S.C. Master's, South Carolina State College. Took doctoral courses at USF.
What three things would you cut from the budget to fill a $54 million hole next year? Hire independent auditor to identify possible cuts, particularly in operating expenses. Would consider asking employees to pay more in insurance costs, but needs more employee feedback . Cut administrative positions at the district office. Consider closing and consolidating schools. Commission an independent auditor to look at the district and find other areas to cut. Look at: a 10 percent across-the-board cut in discretionary budgets, putting "teachers on assignment" back in classrooms, curbing district travel, letting time lapse between hires.
What grade would you give superintendent Julie Janssen and why? Grade: B
She's bringing a lot of new ideas to the table, and a lot of times it's uncomfortable for people. Communications with the board and community need to be strengthened.
Grade: B
She's done a pretty decent job. The board has confidence in her. But she seems to be indecisive.
Grade: B-
She's very strong in the area of curriculum and cares about kids. I think she may not be getting all the information she needs from her subordinates to make timely decisions.
Half our high schools are D's or F's. What 3 ways would you fix them? Develop relationships with students, listen to their concerns and to staffers. Establish relationships with community and business groups. Shift resources from some schools to others. I don't have a good answer for these D- and F-rated schools, right now. Match strengths of administrators with school needs. Give teachers incentives to work in failing schools. Evaluate progress , share successes.
Name one way to improve
Get students to believe they have a future. Talk with student leaders about why it is important to go to school so that they can spread it to their friends. Mandate in-school suspension for less serious offenses and expulsion for crimes like assault, directing those offenders to the criminal justice system. I'm not a fan of alternative schools. Put discipline plans in every school. Increase teachers in halls at bell times. Touch base with troubled students at start of school year. Establish behavioral contracts with students.
Assets $13,446, household goods, stocks, bank account. $23,642, household goods, car, bank accounts. $1.69 million from three houses and a day care.
Liabilities $21,593, student & car loans. $5,020, credit card. $843,045, home , car loans, mortgages.
Income $37,726, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. $65,725 , retirement, social security. $102,000, retirement, social security and preschool.
Personal Single; no children. Divorced; 2 adult children. Married; 2 adult children.

Pinellas County School Board District 7 08/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 3:18pm]
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