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Hernando County School Board, District 1

School Board | District 1

Two candidates are challenging incumbent John Sweeney, who is seeking his third term on the School Board. The three contenders in the nonpartisan race come from different backgrounds and all have different ideas of how to tackle the district's most pressing problems.


Mark Johnson, 64


Self-employed investigator

John K. Sweeney, 51


School Board member

Donald Whiting, 68


Owner of Whiting Insurance

Experience Johnson hails from New York and has been a Hernando resident for eight years. He has never run for public office here. He has been involved in the county's antidrug coalition, Students Working Against Tobacco and the county's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Currently, he is chairman of the dropout prevention organization Communities in Schools of Hernando County. A New York native and a 25-year resident of Hernando County, Sweeney has a total of 10 years of teaching experience here and in Pasco County. He is seeking his third term on the School Board. He has coached little league for several years as part of the YMCA and the West Hernando Little League. He has coached softball and golf in the district. He is also involved in a mentoring program for young people. Whiting is a 32-year Hernando resident who owns and operates Spring Hill-based Whiting Insurance. He volunteered on the county's Aviation Authority board for a decade and is a flight leader for the Young Eagles program through the local Experimental Aircraft Association. He has served on a School Advisory Council, participated in Junior Achievement and been a Big Brother. He also has coached little league.
Education Bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Phoenix Master's degree in education from Saint Leo University; bachelor's from SUNY Stony Brook High school and some college
Platform Johnson believes a lack of leadership on the School Board is hurting the district. He wants to work to improve funding and fix the state formula that he feels shortchanges Hernando students. He also wants to work to reduce unfunded state and federal mandates. Sweeney wants to use $2 million in new state funding to expand busing for every elementary student. He also wants to pursue new funds for aging schools. He'd like to see part-time teacher assistants hired to help teachers, introduce foreign languages at elementary schools and improve parent access. Whiting says he will bring a greater sense of fiscal responsibility and fiscal understanding to the board. He has identified two big safety issues: He wants to see full skirting around portables and Sheriff's Office call boxes placed on school campuses to increase the presence of law enforcement.
What are the top issues confronting the district, and how would you fix them? He says the board is dysfunctional and votes against the best interest of students. He says board members need to be unified on major issues and take positions they may not personally advocate. He vows to continue his battle against the move to six-period instructional days in the district's middle and high schools. He is also lobbying for increased local control of schools. He says he will use his business experience to address a number of big issues: school funding, the budget, board unity and technology.
Why should residents support you over your opponents? Passion. Integrity. Honesty. "I understand what is wrong and want to correct issues before the system fails," he said. He says he is an experienced educator with diverse experiences and a track record of success. He says he has the right background and mentality for the job. He will promote fiscal responsibility and strengthen the district's vision.
Stance on the penny sales tax referendum He would have preferred that the district go it alone on a half-cent tax and not combine with the county. But he supports the combined penny because of the great need in the district. Supported joining forces with the county to put the penny sales tax referendum on the November ballot. He supports it, but would have liked to see the district go it alone, believing that a schools-only tax would be more likely to pass. "I'm a bird-in-the-hand-is-worth-two-in-the-bush sort of guy," he said.
Evaluate the superintendent He called her a "take-charge person who has addressed the problems of the school district and has taken immediate action." "The jury is still out." "So far, so good," he said. Open to ideas, she is tough enough to make tough decisions, he said.
Assets Bank accounts, securities investments, retirement savings Home, bank account, FRS investment plan Property, rental property, bank accounts
Liabilities Credit cards, car loan Mortgage, student loans, auto/credit loans Several mortgages
Income Social Security, salary School Board salary Salary, rent
Personal Married with two grown children and two grown stepsons Married with three children Married with five children
Website None

About the job: District 1 includes a section of Spring Hill east of U.S. 19 and south of State Road 50. Board elections are countywide, but members must live in the district they represent. School Board terms are four years; the current annual salary is $34,426.

Hernando County School Board, District 1 08/14/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2014 4:57pm]
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