A new Pasco School Board majority will assume office in November and immediately be confronted with whittling a projected $46.7 million deficit for the budget year that is less than eight months away. Due to retirements and a resignation, voters will be filling three School Board seats Nov. 2 in nonpartisan countywide races. A field of six capable candidates will be on the ballot, and voters should seek individuals who have the skills and judgment to move the district forward and who display the ability and desire to make the tough budget choices that lie ahead.
Mike Ryan, District 3
Home builder Mike Ryan, 52, is the more well-rounded candidate seeking the District 3 seat being vacated by Cathi Martin's retirement. Ryan has experience running a successful business and is familiar with education issues from his volunteer leadership at the Dayspring Academy charter school. Perhaps most noteworthy is his former career. Ryan worked in the private sector for a company promoting efficiency and cost-savings in school operations. It is a skill that is going to come in handy.
Realtor Cynthia Armstrong, 55, also presents a strong resume. She is a business woman and former teacher, but she shies from displaying leadership skills. Her reluctance to support a quarter-mill property tax levy without voter approval might be good politics, but it is detrimental to teachers and schoolchildren who will suffer most from the continuing budget deficits.
The Times recommends Mike Ryan for the District 3 Pasco School Board seat.
Alison G. Crumbley, District 4
This is a two-year position to finish the term of Kathryn Starkey, who resigned to run for the state Legislature. The candidates, Alison G. Crumbley and Karen King, both bring private-sector experience and a wealth of volunteerism.
Crumbley, 52, is the marketing director for her husband's real estate firm and has done a better job studying the issues and preparing herself for the tasks ahead. She is heavily involved in multiple aspects of education and children's issues, from sitting on the School Advisory Council at River Ridge High School to helping found a nonprofit organization that provides prom attire to underprivileged high school students to volunteering at the Sunshine Kids Foundation, which arranges theme park trips for kids with cancer. She also is familiar with government and school concurrency rules from her tenure on the citizens group that rewrote the county's land plan.
King, 60, is a sales director for a Port Richey motel and tells a compelling story about her own son's education from his falling behind in a northern school to blossoming at Gulf High School and eventually earning a college degree, a master's from Harvard and then entering law school. She has extensive civic involvement, a strong business perspective and government familiarity from her role on the Tourist Development Council.
Among her platform planks is an expansion of the successful parent university program at Lacoochee Elementary as a way to bolster parent involvement. But, her idea to use Penny for Pasco money for school operating costs is unworkable, and she does not offer a viable alternative.
For a two-year term on School Board District 4, the Times recommends Alison G. Crumbley.
Steve Luikart, District 5
Retired school administrator Steve Luikart is best prepared to hit the ground running as the District 5 Pasco School Board member replacing the retiring Frank Parker.
Luikart, 59, worked 32 years for the district before retiring two years ago as assistant principal at River Ridge High School. His knowledge of the district is unmatched, whether discussing categorical funding, student discipline or textbook costs. He will ask the questions of the district-level administration that need to be asked.
Realtor and businessman Mark Swartsel, 58, has continued to research the issues confronting the district and he is more prepared to serve now than he was when he announced his last-minute candidacy in June.
Swartsel would be a competent board member, but a balance of divergent personal experiences and individual viewpoints are imperative aspects of a successful public dialogue. The same holds true for the Pasco School Board, the makeup of which is about to be dominated by members from the private-sector.
Swartsel touts his business background, but Luikart's lifelong career in education is a valuable perspective the board needs.
The Times recommends Steve Luikart for the District 5 Pasco School Board seat.