District 7, south Pinellas
The Pinellas County School Board faces a long list of challenges, from declining tax revenue to a rising number of poorly rated schools. Retired Pinellas schools administrator Lew Williams is well positioned to join the board as a respected voice who understands education issues and the south Pinellas neighborhoods that make up District 7. Williams' knowledge of the school system and the community make him the best choice to help guide the district on issues ranging from adding academic choices to narrowing the achievement gap.
Williams, 67, worked for the school district for 34 years before retiring in 2005. He has experience working at every level, including as a teacher and as a principal at elementary, middle and high schools. He then spent 18 years in the upper administration of the district. Williams has a clear-eyed view of what goes on in the classroom and at district headquarters — and how decisions made at the top affect teachers and students throughout the county.
While he has an insider's knowledge, Williams embraces change. He supports merit pay for teachers and says a new system should be designed with input from all stakeholders. He has pragmatic ideas about further budget cuts as tax revenue continues to drop, and he understands the need for clear, uniform discipline in the schools. He agrees with superintendent Julie Janssen's proposal to extend some fundamental school concepts to all elementary and middle schools.
Diversity is important, particularly when dealing with public education and schools that are quickly resegregating. The School Board's two black members, Mary Brown and Nina Hayden, will not be returning. Williams would be the board's only black member, and his long involvement in trying to bridge the achievement gap and his knowledge of south Pinellas' neighborhoods and schools would add an important perspective to the discussion.
James Harold Jackson, 66, is passionate about education issues. He was a psychology professor for more than three decades at Miami-Dade College, and he has taught part-time at St. Petersburg College. But Jackson only moved to St. Petersburg in 2007, and he lacks Williams' familiarity with Pinellas' specific issues and his roots in the community.
For Pinellas County School Board District 7, the Times recommends Lew Williams.