The Hillsborough County School District is grappling with two major initiatives. One revises the process for evaluating and paying teachers. Another seeks to expand student enrollment in Advanced Placement courses. Both have serious implications for the quality of public education. School board members need to be engaged and willing to adjust these plans as they move forward. These races on the Nov. 2 ballot are nonpartisan and open to all voters.
Richard Bartels | District 4 (east county)
Richard Bartels is uniquely suited to serve on the board at this critical time. His 38 years as a teacher, principal and school administrator in Hillsborough give him a firm grasp of both the academic and business sides of the school system.
Bartels, 62, was a no-nonsense leader at some of the county's largest schools. He has a strong record on improving academics, and his solid relationship with teachers is an asset as the district embarks on a yearslong project to better recruit, train and pay the instructional staff.
Bartels has a good feel for how the district should balance the many needs of its varied student population. He appreciates the need to better prepare students for college but does not overlook those in career and trade courses who need the skills to enter the modern work force. His grasp of the issues and sense of accountability would raise the board's game.
Stacy White, a 38-year-old pharmacist, is up to speed on overall policy. His call to improve graduation rates reflects appropriate concern for America's competitiveness in the global economy. White also has the personality to draw more parents into the decisionmaking process. But he speaks too often in generalities, and he comes with a longer learning curve.
For Hillsborough School Board District 4, the Times recommends Richard Bartels.
April Griffin | District 6 (countywide)
April Griffin traded barbs with her colleagues on the School Board soon after first winning election in 2006. But she has tempered her style and become a constructive voice. Griffin also does a good job of balancing the diverse needs of the district.
Griffin, 41, is a strong advocate for career and technical education. But she has rounded her agenda — pushing rigorous academics, better planning and smarter oversight of the budget to ensure that all schools receive their fair share of resources. Griffin has the right safeguards in mind to ensure that reforms in teacher pay and college preparation efforts stay on track. She treats the office as a full-time job, does her homework and never loses sight of the impact policies have on students and families.
Sally A. Harris, a 60-year-old child care provider, talks in broad sweeps about quality education. But she offers little substance on policy issues and gives no indication she would provide strong direction to the administrative staff.
Griffin is much more willing to subject herself to public scrutiny. That thick skin is important; the public will need board members who talk straight and listen as the district fine-tunes the teacher pay and college prep reforms.
For Hillsborough School Board District 6, the Times recommends April Griffin.