A balance of divergent personal experiences and individual viewpoints is an imperative aspect of a successful public dialogue. The same holds true for the Hernando School Board, which, over the past few years, has been through a difficult period of budget cutting, personnel moves and an administrative overhaul.
On the Nov. 2 ballot, only the District 5 board seat will be decided in a nonpartisan countywide race. Voters should look for the candidate with the skills and the judgment needed to move the district forward and the one who has the ability and the desire to make the tough choices ahead on budgeting and academics. But, just as important, an authoritative board needs multiple viewpoints, which makes four-term incumbent Sandra Nicholson the preferable candidate. Nicholson brings an outside business perspective to the board, while her opponent, retired teacher Cynthia J. Moore, champions the educator's point of view.
We have not agreed with all of Nicholson's stands and find her disengaged on some matters. Remarkably, she said she has no memory of votes in late 2006 — just after her current term began — to raise her salary above what a beginning teacher earns or her support for obtaining a federal grant to randomly drug test teenage students. A board majority rejected the grant. Nicholson also was overly loyal to ousted superintendent Wayne Alexander, who left in 2009 after losing the support of a board majority that did not include Nicholson.
But, Nicholson, 62, can tout her oversight for saving the district significant money in construction costs. She has assumed the role of guarding the purse strings, a particularly important contribution given the budget constraints that still loom ahead.
Moore, 68, does not present a compelling case to supplant the incumbent. She spent 41 years as a district educator and then stayed as a volunteer after her retirement in 2004. A one-time president of the teachers union, she has a platform dominated by logistics including re-establishing a centralized printing operation, removing portable classrooms and better scheduling for teacher training to diminish lost time in the classroom. Mostly, though, she offers nonspecific criticism that the district is not child-oriented.
The Aug. 24 re-elections of School Board members John K. Sweeney and Dianne Bonfield, both former teachers, guarantees a strong educator's perspective on the board, which mitigates one of Moore's attributes. Nicholson's private-sector business experience is an important asset that should be retained.
The Times recommends Sandra Nicholson for the District 5 seat on the Hernando School Board.
OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND: The Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply. School Board candidates should send their replies no later than 5 p.m. Wednesday to C.T. Bowen, Pasco/Hernando editor of editorials, St. Petersburg Times, 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey, FL 34668; by fax (727) 869-6233; or via e-mail to [email protected] Replies are limited to 250 words.