Both candidates for the District 2 seat on the Pinellas School Board emphasize their backgrounds as qualifications for the job. Republican Bruce McDowell is a neophyte politician but a longtime businessman. His background as vice president of his family's office supply company and as a bank director give him management expertise that would be an asset to the board, he says.
Democrat Linda Lerner has run for public office before and is a longtime children's advocate. She is a former teacher and was director of education for a center that helped women get back into the job market and become independent.
She knows about children's and family issues and could bring an important perspective to the board, she says.
Lerner says she knows that a Democrat has a political disadvantage in a Pinellas election, but she thinks more diversity is needed on the all-Republican board. "My challenger's biggest plus is the big R beside his name," she said.
McDowell says he is a lifelong Republican and doesn't think party designation should be a factor in the race.
The two differ on several issues, including the idea of full-service schools, where social service agencies would bring their services to the school setting.
McDowell is cautious about the notion.
He worries that basic academics might suffer if schools also are centers for health services, welfare services and other social agencies. He would rather see families solve many of the problems themselves. "Moms and dads need to take more responsibility," he said.
Lerner says it's a natural idea. "The children are there, and that is the one place we can reach them," she said. "They're not looking for the school system to reinvent the wheel. They want to coordinate activities."
They agree, however, that parents need to be more involved in their children's education. And both say they support the federal court order governing the desegregation of Pinellas schools.
_ WILMA NORTON
The Pinellas School Board makes policy for nearly 93,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade and at least 33,000 in prekindergarten, vocational, technical and adult programs. Board members serve four-year terms with a salary of $21,983. All seven board members are elected countywide, but five must live in certain areas of the county. District 2 encompasses the west central portion of the county and includes Seminole and parts of Largo and Clearwater.
LINDA LERNER, 47, was director of educational support service at FACE Learning Center in Largo for nine years and now describes herself as an unpaid human-services professional and advocate. She is active in a number of community organizations, including the National Conference of Christians and Jews and Family Service Centers. She has a bachelor's degree in education from Lesley College in Massachusetts and a master's degree in special education from Columbia University. She is married and has two children. She was an unsuccessful candidate for the state House of Representatives in 1986. ASSETS: Home, vacation cabin, rental house, bonds, retirement accounts. LIABILITIES: Mortgages. INCOME: None.
BRUCE H. McDOWELL, 38, is vice president of McDowell's Seminole Office Supply and a director of Seminole Federal Savings Bank. He is a former president of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Office Products Association. He is a graduate of Seminole High and St. Petersburg Junior College. He is married and has three children. This is his first try for public office. ASSETS: Home, office supply stock, bank stock, van, cash, mutual funds. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, loans. INCOME: Salaries.