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Pinellas School Board District 7 candidates

This seat came open after two-term incumbent Mary Brown, the first African-American elected to the board, decided not to run. It pits two longtime educators: Lew Williams, a veteran Pinellas County school administrator, and Jim Jackson, a college professor for three decades.

About the job: District 7 covers St. Petersburg generally south of 54th Avenue N, Kenneth City, Gulfport and South Pasadena. School Board members oversee a $1.35 billion budget and a K-12 school system with about 103,000 students and nearly 14,000 full-time employees. They serve four-year terms and are paid $37,013 a year.

More about these candidates

Jim Jackson, 66

Retired professor
Lew Williams, 67

Retired school administrator
Jackson taught psychology at Miami-Dade College for 31 years before retiring in 1999 and moving to St. Petersburg three years ago. Adjunct professor at University of Hawaii in 1981 and St. Petersburg College, 2007-08. Worked on several campaigns, including Barack Obama's in 2008. Involved in Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas, Old Southeast Neighborhood Association, Sierra Club. Experience Retired in 2005 from the 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.
Bachelor's and master's from Ohio State University. Doctorate from Florida State University. Post-doctoral at University of Hawaii. Education Jones High School, Orlando. Bachelor's from Allen University, Columbia, S.C. Master's from South Carolina State College. Took doctoral courses at USF.
It's a start, but it's not my plan. I want fundamental schools for all students who want them. You shouldn't have to win the lottery to get in a fundamental. . . . If there's going to be one at Boca Ciega, why not one at Lakewood, Gibbs and St. Petersburg high schools? Do you support a proposed fundamental school within a school at Boca Ciega High? I'm not opposed to more fundamental schools. We just don't want to oversaturate the area. . . . I'm more receptive to a fundamental school within a school program as long as all parents have the chance to apply to a fundamental program and have a good understanding of what a fundamental school means.
I'm not sold on uniforms, but it does negate the school socioeconomic class factor. I'm not sure I agree with uniforms across the board. There's a cost factor. I want to talk to parent and student groups before I commit to a yes or no vote. Do you support mandatory uniforms in schools? I'm not opposed to uniforms, but I'd like to see the district use the procedure that's been in place for a long time: Give parents an opportunity to decide whether they want uniforms in their school. Don't mandate it without parent buy-in.
I don't think a single paper or pencil test is the way to go. You have to look at learning modalities. There may be teaching or testing strategies that would be better. Part of it might just be test-taking anxiety. When you do an assessment of a child, if you change your assessment based on their learning style, their test scores might just go up. Black students in Pinellas County lag significantly behind their peers. How would you address that? I honestly can't say I know why that's the case. But one thing I would like to see is each school write objectives in their school improvement plan for black students. It has to be monitored. There has to be an assessment. We have to look at what is working and why is it working.
Safety. Falling way behind in terms of skill level we're giving our students; overall, I don't think our kids are coming out with the best skill sets to go to the best schools. And incorporating more high technology in the high schools. What are the three top issues facing the district and why? I have a hard time narrowing it to three. Budget considerations, discipline and safe schools, and parent involvement. We can't help but be concerned about dealing with the class-size amendment. Equally important is trying to bridge the achievement gap between struggling learners and majority learners.
$23,642 in household goods, car and bank accounts. Assets $1.69 million from three houses and a day care.
$5,020 on a credit card. Liabilities $843,045: home, car loans, mortgages.
$65,725 from retirement and Social Security. Income $102,000 from retirement, Social Security and preschool.
Divorced; two adult children. Personal Married; two adult children. Website E-mail

Pinellas School Board District 7 candidates 10/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:54pm]
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