Over the past few years, the Pasco School Board has been through a difficult period of budget cutting while continuing to build new classrooms to ease crowding and adding career academies to boost vocational training. Now, due to retirements and a resignation, voters will be selecting three new board members who must have the skills and judgment to move the district forward. They also must have the ability and desire to make the tough choices ahead on budgeting and academics. The nonpartisan races on the Aug. 24 ballot are open to all voters. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers in each district square off in November.
Mike Ryan, District 3
Four strong and capable candidates seek the District 3 seat being vacated by Cathi Martin's retirement. Home builder Mike Ryan, 52, is the most well-rounded because of his business experience, familiarity with education issues from his volunteer leadership at the Dayspring Academy charter school, a past private-sector job promoting efficiency and cost-savings in school operations, and his commitments to the community that range from feeding the homeless to coaching flag football.
Elementary school teacher Anthony Terranova, 31, also offers substantial qualities. He arrived for an interview with a laptop and a copy of the school budget already marked up with sticky notes. He is intuitive, energetic and outspoken. He brings a wealth of ideas, but cannot match Ryan's business experience or broad community ties.
Deep roots in Pasco County are Attorney Sallie D. Skipper's strong suit since she has lived, worked and volunteered her time here for nearly 30 years. However, Skipper, 60, offered no innovative ideas nor a willingness to commit to any budget-cutting suggestions.
Realtor Cynthia Armstrong, 55, is a business woman and former teacher, but, she, too, shied from displaying leadership skills. Her reluctance to support to a quarter-mil property tax levy without voter approval might be a good political position, but is impractical in a district facing a $28 million hole in its budget.
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 strongest candidate in this crowded field is Alison G. Crumbley, marketing director for her husband's real estate firm. She has done a better job studying the issues and preparing herself for the tasks ahead.
Crumbley, 52, 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 founding 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.
Steven N. Kanakis, 47, a psychologist, helped soothe the uproar at the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando after his appointment to the board of directors there. He has the intellect and inquisitive nature to handle a board member's duties, but he displays a lack of familiarity with the district's operations, mandated programs and the issues confronting the board.
Karen King, 51, sales director for a Port Richey motel, 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 and entering law school. She brings extensive civic involvement, a strong business perspective and government familiarity from her role on the Tourist Development Council. However, her idea to use Penny for Pasco money for school operating costs is unworkable and she does not offer a sound alternative.
Billie Ann Stamatis Kaleel, 58, a retired court reporter and longtime classroom volunteer, and John Tracy, 31, a music minister at a Hillsborough County church and a former teacher in Michigan, bring narrow focuses to what is a wide-ranging job. They are not well prepared to help lead the district.
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, hasn't even convinced himself that he wants this job. Swartsel is intelligent and capable of serving on the board, but his exposure to education issues is limited to his own children's schooling. In May, he contributed to Luikart's campaign, but in June decided to run for the position himself. His first instincts were correct: Luikart is the better candidate.
Teacher George G. Brazier, 42, is well-versed on the challenges facing classroom educators, but his wife's district-level job as the supervisor of elementary and middle school guidance, poses a potential conflict.
The Times recommends Steve Luikart for District 5 Pasco School Board seat.