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Candidate replies on Times recommendations

Editor's note: The Tampa Bay Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply.

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Michael Weston

Hillsborough School Board, District 2

The Times strongly recommends a status quo that refuses to hold the superintendent or her administration accountable for their actions.

The status quo is responsible for the death, abuse and neglect of disabled children. The status quo accepts without question the corporate money grab that is Common Core. The status quo would rather test our children than teach them. The status quo does not fire incompetent administrators; they are transferred to highly paid, but out of view, positions.

Public education is at a crossroads and requires knowledgeable and truly independent advocates.

I bring classroom and practical business experience to the table. I have witnessed the drug dens that double as restrooms in our schools. I have tutored the 17-year-old who cannot add without a calculator. I have watched a student jump from her desk shouting, "I get it now!'' I will serve every student, parent and taxpayer.

Terry Kemple

Hillsborough School Board, District 4

I noted with great interest that although my opposition to the Common Core standards took much of the time we spent in our interview, there was little mention of Common Core in your recommendations. That's extremely surprising since a June 2014 Rasmussen survey of parents with children in grades K thru 12 found that 47 percent of the parents were opposed to further implementation of Common Core and only 34 percent were in favor.

I want to help all students have better educational outcomes to improve their futures and the future of our community, culture and country. Jamming Common Core down the throats of parents who are opposed and students who are frustrated and bewildered isn't the way to do that.

The way to achieve the best results for our students is to find ways to encourage parents to be more involved, not manufacture ways to push them away.

Stacy Hahn

Hillsborough School Board, District 6

I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Times for recognizing my experience when it stated I bring "deep policy knowledge to the race … which would serve the board well as it examines its special needs programs and teacher evaluation procedures."

The editorial board recognizes, given the current state of the School Board, that new members must have experience including classroom teaching, higher education, research, policy and educational leadership. I am the only candidate with this experience. I work with public schools every single day and the results of my commitment to public education can be seen through the number of dedicated and highly effective teachers that I have trained.

Although I disagree with the Times' recommendation, I appreciate the opportunity to submit this response. I urge voters to consider qualifications over politics.

Dipa Shah

Hillsborough School Board, District 6

Over the last 15 months of campaigning, I have listened to what the people want and the answer has been the same across the county. Every person wants the students to be well educated so that they will be good citizens.

My mission is to focus on preparing the kids for the future. My years of volunteer experience in the public schools have been focused on improving student achievement.

My professional experience as a business and finance attorney rounds out my qualifications to serve the educational community. My 19 years of legal practice and leadership training equip me with a unique set of skills as a board member.

As the mom of kids in the public schools, I understand the daily challenges faced by those that we serve.

My mission is to give back to my community by giving the gift of education to the kids — the future of our community.

Randy Toler

Hillsborough School Board, District 6

As a School Board candidate in the District 6 countywide race I was disappointed not to be one of the 101 candidates interviewed, considering most would agree my campaign is most visible. I believe I have created a growth industry in our county with consultants paid to take down my signs. I do appreciate mention of my proposal to create an Ombudsman Office for Special Needs students, and the generous coverage by the Times.

I feel I am the most qualified, employed as an IT professional with a bachelor's degree in public administration. I propose increased stipends for teachers in poorer areas, increased afterschool youth activities, expansion of career path training and technical centers, increased security leveraging federal grants and expansion of PTAs.

I want to bring harmony to the board and take seriously careful evaluation of the superintendent, formulation of policies and review of the budget with energy efficiency focus.

John Dingfelder

Hillsborough Circuit Court, Group 8

My extensive legal experience for 25 years in this community may not be as well known as my service on City Council (2003-10) and the Variance Review Board. As an attorney, I fought high-voltage power lines to protect our neighborhoods, worked to preserve our environment and wetlands, eliminated long distance phone charges for Plant City and east county residents, went to the Florida Supreme Court to protect our civil rights and always guarded our First Amendment and other constitutional freedoms. Starting my career at the Carlton Fields law firm, I moved to the county attorney's office and later the public defender's office. In recent years I represented Plant City and its police officers. I have always been fair-minded, hardworking and ethical. Isn't that what you want in a judge?

Laura Ward

Hillsborough Circuit Court, Group 20

Born and raised in Hillsborough County, my husband and I are raising our two daughters here. I am committed to serving our community as a judge.

I practice complex commercial litigation and started and run a free veterans' legal services clinic at the VA hospital. I am honored to have been previously nominated for judge and to have received the endorsement of 25 of the past local Bar Association presidents in addition to numerous business, elected and community leaders. I am grateful that more lawyers highly approve of my candidacy than any other Circuit Court candidate.

I graduated from Academy of the Holy Names, Davidson College and the University of Michigan Law School, magna cum laude. On Election Day, I ask for and would appreciate your vote!

Don Kruse

Hillsborough County Commission, District 7

The day Mark Sharpe steps down from the commission, our county will unfortunately lose its vision of smart growth without sprawl and smart transportation without gridlock, and a vision of attracting high-tech businesses. I do not see anyone else on the board with his determination and because I share the same vision for our future, I feel compelled by a sense of duty to run for the commission. Should I have the opportunity and honor to serve the community that I was born in, my priorities are to see through to fruition a smart transportation system that encourages smart growth to our metro areas away from creating gridlock producing sprawl, and economic development by attracting businesses like that in nanotechnology that will create opportunities for a skilled labor force and produce higher-income jobs.

Alan Rosenthal

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, Group 2

I would request members of this community take the time to do their own research on the candidates and come to an informed decision. My website is where my resume can be reviewed which details my educational, legal, extracurricular, community and philanthropic background. I have considerable community support as can be seen by my list of endorsements, which include Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Mayor Travis Palladeno of Madeira Beach, and members of the legal, medical, business and community at large. I am well known by my family, friends, business associates and acquaintances as a respected attorney, family man and philanthropist. My reputation is of a well rounded, hard working individual of high moral character and unquestionable ethics. Vote Rosenthal for judge on Aug. 26 and thank you for your continued support.

Brian Battaglia

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, Group 16

The Times previously wrote that I could be a fine jurist and that "Brian Battaglia (has) good legal credentials and experience." Many others in the community where I was born, raised and educated agree.

For 28 years, I have handled hundreds of litigation cases, and argued appeals at every level of our court system, including the Florida Supreme Court. Leaders in our legal system, who understand what it takes to be a fine jurist, support my candidacy. This is confirmed by the endorsements received from both Pinellas and Pasco sheriffs, both clerks of the court, our public defender, Bob Dillinger, and many others in our community.

Judges make decisions that significantly impact those who appear before them. Therefore, when selecting a judge, it's not about one's "potential" to be a good judge. I am ready to serve the citizens as circuit judge on day one. Experience matters.

Amanda Colón

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, Group 21

I am a former prosecutor (participated in misdemeanors to murder, and the Domestic Violence Unit) and senior assistant attorney general (handled the appeals of hundreds of jury trials, argued before the 2nd District Court of Appeal, and defended the constitutionality of the Sexually Violent Predators Act to the Florida Supreme Court).

I am board certified in marital and family law, which demonstrates my high level of ethics, competency and professionalism (only 6 percent of attorneys in Florida are board certified). My experience compared to my opponent is greater in length, areas practiced, board certification, and I have a more substantial record of serving my community (Guardian ad Litem, PACE Center for Girls, Grievance Committee, etc.).

The Times called me a "credible candidate," but stated I "raised little money." Choosing to run a grass roots judicial campaign is not a weakness.

Candidate replies on Times recommendations 08/01/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2014 9:31pm]
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