Monday, December 11, 2017

Hernando District 2 School Board candidates offer sharp contrasts

Nobody is going to confuse Matt Foreman and William Kingeter in the District 2 School Board race.

It's incumbent versus outsider. Youth versus life experience. Lawyer versus retiree.

Foreman, the incumbent, focuses on specifics — his concerns about adding another assistant superintendent, the need for more adult technical education, and the importance of having a superintendent with strong experience in collective bargaining.

Kingeter's campaign tackles several big ideas — dealing with bullies, giving teachers more classroom freedom, and eradicating the nepotism and cronyism he says is plaguing the district.

Nobody will confuse their campaigns in the nonpartisan race, either.

Foreman's is the biggest fundraiser of all School Board candidates in either race; he has amassed more than $16,000 in his campaign account through the most recent filing period.

Kingeter, who loaned himself $1,000, is running a largely self-funded race.

• • •

Foreman is a product of the Hernando County schools.

A Springstead High School graduate, he was appointed to the School Board in September 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott after Pat Fagan resigned.

Foreman says he has a lot of unfinished business.

One of his chief issues is to bring more adult technical education to the county.

After speaking with local business leaders, he says, he believes there is money available to help get people back to work.

"That adult technical education money — it requires the participation of the School Board," he said. "I would like to see that program at least getting its wheels turning."

Battling waste and inefficiency in this age of budget shortfalls is also a major priority.

Citing the savings realized by reorganizing bus routes this year, Foreman said savings abound.

"I think there's still more we can do," he said.

He also believes the district needs to take a careful look at overhead expenditures.

"Overhead is often what kills you," he said.

During board meetings, Foreman frequently asks for more information about expenditures. He says he wants to be able to explain why money needs to be spent.

And he often takes a hard line.

He voted not to give raises to non-union employees.

"I would stand by my decision," he said. "The issue is that I don't know that it's appropriate just to give a raise because. I believe that every cent counts."

He practices what he preaches. He took a 10 percent pay cut to his School Board salary.

That's part of the reason why he voted against approving another assistant superintendent's position.

"It's a concern to create another top-level, highly paid position in a time where we're in a budget crunch," he said. "I do think there's an eventual need for the position, but we still have to be able to pay for it. That's the issue."

It makes sense then that experience with collective bargaining is an important skill Foreman wants to see in the next superintendent, certainly one of the biggest responsibilities for the School Board in the coming months, with the pending retirement of superintendent Bryan Blavatt.

Foreman says he also wants someone who is strong in management and able to spot strengths and weaknesses in employees.

School-based management experience? Not crucial. National search? He sees strong benefits to a national search, but he says he would look in house first.

"I think we do have some people in our district who are strong enough to navigate the waters and not play politics," he said.

Foreman is passionate about providing a high-quality education for Hernando students.

That's what he got. That's what he wants his future kids to get.

"Really, at the core, I feel that I'm here because I got a good education from Floyd, from Powell, from Springstead," he said. "I want to make sure kids have the same opportunity."

• • •

Kingeter's run for School Board began when he saw Foreman had no opponent.

"He had gotten one free ride (as an appointed board member), and I hated like heck to see him get a second," Kingeter said. "I just thought somebody should give the public a choice rather than have someone just ride in on a free ride."

But Kingeter says he has plenty motivating him.

He says he has spoken with numerous teachers and parents and concerned people across the county in preparing for the election.

"Most things I have to say are not my idea," he said. "They're fed to me by other people.

First? Bullying.

"They are really upset over the lack of dealing with the problem," he said. "They say you kind of feel like a ping-pong ball — you get bounced from one agency to the other … and then nothing happens."

One possible idea to deal with bullies, he said, is to isolate them, putting them all in one classroom. Give them a pile of work. Only bring them back when they prove they can behave, he said.

Nepotism and cronyism is a big problem, too, Kingeter says. This one, he said, he's felt firsthand.

He said he applied 25 times with the county and 75 times with the School Board, filling out applications for everything from custodian to cafeteria worker to school bus aide.

The retired deputy chief with the Newark, N.J., Fire Department wondered how he could once be in charge of 200 men, making life-altering decisions, and not be competitive.

"It bothered me pretty greatly," he said.

He says he would introduce an anti-nepotism policy for the school district.

People could "come to me," Kingeter said, and he would put feet to the fire.

One other idea: competitive exams for people applying for critical positions.

When it comes to teachers, Kingeter's philosophy is simple: Give them more freedom.

Today's requirements are far too restrictive, aimed too much at the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, he said.

"A lot of them want to go back to the three R's," he said.

Things can change if you raise enough commotion, he believes.

"If you just sit there like a docile puppet and take everything from Tallahassee, shame on you," he said.

Kingeter speaks critically of the current board on two main issues. He feels board members show a critical lack of action, tabling too many issues for the future. He is also critical of what he termed a costly new assistant superintendent's position.

"It would sure go a long way toward providing crayons and pencils and paper to children," he said.

As for the district's next superintendent, Kingeter thinks local is best; outside candidates would need too much time to familiarize themselves with the Hernando district, he says.

"It's a definite advantage to be from the area," he said.

Kingeter says his long background in public service makes him the best candidate for the job.

"I got the time and the background," he said. "I think (Foreman) is busy suing people, busy litigating, doing all the things that a lawyer does."

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.

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