Saturday, April 21, 2018
Politics

Three new members guaranteed on Hernando School Board

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board is in for a dramatic makeover, with three new members guaranteed to come aboard after the November election.

In Tuesday's nonpartisan primary election, Beth Narverud handily defeated Jay Rowden for the open District 3 seat, which was left vacant by retiring board member Dianne Bonfield.

Incumbent John Sweeney, who became embroiled in a controversy this year involving the changing of his son's grades, was knocked out of the District 1 race with the fewest votes of the three candidates, leaving Mark Johnson and Don Whiting to duke it out in the Nov. 4 runoff.

In District 5, Susan Duval and Robert Neuhausen were the top two vote-getters, knocking out incumbent Cynthia Moore, who received the third-highest number of votes. Anna Liisa Covell came in fourth place.

The District 3 race to replace Bonfield was among the most contentious so far this election season in Hernando.

Each candidate raised more than $16,000, and money poured into the race from outside sources in the form of fliers and robocalls.

Narverud said she was excited to win her first campaign.

"It feels really awesome," she said. "I'm so excited. It's been a long road."

Narverud, the former head of the Hernando County Education Foundation, said she hopes to first work with the district's budget to get more technology into the schools.

"We want to close that achievement gap," she said. "We need to give the kids and the teachers what they need to make that happen."

She thanked Rowden for running a relatively clean race and all of the people she met while campaigning.

"Going from very little name recognition to a lot of name recognition, it's a large leap," she said.

Rowden said he was disappointed with the results.

"It is what it is, and you've got to move on," he said.

He said the loss won't stop him from advocating for the passage of the joint school district and county sales tax on the November ballot.

"I think if they get their penny sales tax, they will probably be okay," he said. "If they don't, they're in deep trouble."

In the District 1 race, Johnson pulled in the highest percentage of the vote, with Whiting coming in second. Sweeney, the incumbent, followed in third.

Sweeney could not be reached for comment.

In recent months, Sweeney has battled against allegations that he was involved in the changing of his son's English grade at Springstead High School. He has adamantly denied doing anything wrong and questioned district officials and a recently released investigation that failed to determine who leaked confidential student records.

In the crowded District 5 race, Duval, a former Springstead High School principal, pulled in the most votes, followed by Neuhausen, an active parent.

Moore, an incumbent, said she wasn't upset and pledged that the result wouldn't stop her from being involved with the schools.

"What will be will be," she said. "I'm not going to give up."

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