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For Hillsborough School Board

The Aug. 26 primary includes two races for Hillsborough County School Board. In the coming four-year term, the board will deal with school crowding, transportation problems and a push to raise academic achievement. The races are nonpartisan.

Susan Valdes | District 1 (west county) Susan Valdes has contributed to the school system by focusing on issues other board members tend to ignore — the needs of Spanish-speaking children and those pursuing the trade and technical tracks instead of college. One shortcoming of late is her tendency to waste energy on petty board politics instead of becoming more conversant on broader educational policy.

Still, Valdes, 43, is the better choice. Her attention to dual-language learning is needed in a county where many immigrant families are struggling to integrate. She also is attuned to the changing landscape in trade and technical learning. She sees computer, food service and other emerging industries as career instruction areas worth expanding.

Dave Schmidt, 59, a district administrator, has a solid grasp of how the system runs and offers solid plans to reduce dropout rates. But the void Valdes fills is unique.

For Hillsborough School Board District 1, the Times recommends Susan Valdes.

Carol W. Kurdell | District 7 (countywide) Carol Kurdell's challengers in this race are using her four terms in office against her, arguing they are better suited to bring about change in the school system. But her challengers fall flat in explaining what they would change, how and why. This race should not be about slogans but about depth and commitment to education.

Kurdell, 63, brings 20 years of civic involvement to the table. She is not flashy. But her quiet presence on the board belies a spine and the influence to bring opposing sides together. Kurdell was one of but two board members to remain strong in the face of a national media campaign by Christian conservatives to have the secular school calendar recognize Christian holidays. Her concern for expanding student counseling as part of extending advanced placement curricula shows she has more to offer.

Her main challenger, Stephen Gorham, 29, has a grasp of the basics. He lost a state Senate race in 2006 and clearly is eager to win elected office. But Gorham seems much more a political animal than the School Board should accommodate. It has strayed too far in that direction already. Gorham also oversells the problems with the school district administration, which he charges "has completely lost touch with (the) needs of our community." A third challenger, Jason Mims, 55, has been active with school and children's issues, but his ideas are vague. If no candidate wins a majority, the top two vote-getters will face each other in November.

For Hillsborough School Board District 7, the Times recommends Carol W. Kurdell.

Opportunity to reply The Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply. Candidates for school board should send their replies no later than 5 p.m. Monday to: Philip Gailey, editor of editorials, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; by fax: (727) 893-8675; or online at: Replies are limited to 200 Replies are limited to 200 words.

For Hillsborough School Board 08/05/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 9, 2008 11:42pm]
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