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School Board candidates define their platforms

Kevin Cunningham may have only served about half a year on the School Board, but during that time he has gotten his feet wet with some major issues.

His opponent in the November election, Mark Stone, is picking apart those very issues in his campaign for the District 1 race.

Stone has criticized Cunningham's votes on the budget, tax rate and Superintendent Carl Austin's pay raise _ picking the money issues in a race that pits two businessmen against each other.

But the business aspects of the District 1 race don't turn up the biggest differences between the two candidates.

Cunningham, the Democrat, has defended his record on the votes for the budget, tax increase and pay raise by explaining many of the underlying mandates the system faces that are out of local control. He was appointed to the School Board by the governor this year when June Black resigned to leave the area.

He has stuck pretty close to his initial campaign, pushing for more involvement in education from the business community, more business partnerships, higher academic goals for children and an education system that provides students with career skills.

One of Cunningham's pet projects has been to work with the Marine Science Station Task Force, which is considering ways to better use that unique teaching center without losing money. Cunningham said he would support creating an aquaculture program at the center similar to the medical technologies program operating at Crystal River High School.

Stone, a Republican, has a platform with many planks similar to those pushed by conservative school board candidates across the country.

He opposes the doctrines of Blueprint 2000 but supports the idea that parents need to be more involved in the education process.

Stone criticizes what he considers a top-heavy administration, speaks out against the self-esteem programs that have been questioned by the Concerned Parents of Citrus County, opposes the alternative grading scale, supports both school choice and vouchers, and largely rejects the idea of sex education in the schools because he believes parents need to do that.

He also favors finding ways to teach moral lessons of right and wrong in the classroom.

Stone's motto is "putting students and teachers first."

Because of Cunningham's interest in a kind of merit pay system for teachers and Stone's support of vouchers, the Citrus County teachers union has chosen to not endorse either candidate.

Cunningham, 36, is owner and operator of Cunningham Insurance in Hernando and has been active in economic development efforts for the county in the two years he has lived here. He is also a board member of the Inverness Kiwanis Club and the Citrus County Education Foundation, and is a graduate of the Leadership Citrus program.

He has a bachelor's degree from Saint Leo College and attended the University of South Florida, Texas A & M University and the National Automobile Dealers Association dealership academy.

Stone, 36, is the manager of the sporting goods department of the Inverness Wal-Mart. A six-year employee of the retailer, Stone previously worked as an assistant store manager but transferred to the new position to spend more time helping his family and the community.

He is an active member of Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church.

THE ISSUES

District 1 candidates for the Citrus County School Board recently were asked questions about where they stand on the issues. Here are the results.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

Kevin Cunningham: He supports keeping corporal punishment in the schools.

Mark Stone: He supports keeping corporal punishment in the schools.

SELF-ESTEEM PROGRAMS

Cunningham: He favors keeping the programs and allowing parents to opt out of them if they oppose them.

Stone: He opposes the programs. He believes self-esteem cannot be taught but can be learned through accomplishment.

A REFERENDUM ON ELECTED VERSUS APPOINTED SUPERINTENDENT

Cunningham: He supports the referendum if it is initiated by the community. He favors an appointed superintendent.

Stone: He supports a referendum. He favors an appointed superintendent.

BLUEPRINT 2000 AND ITS IDEAS

Cunningham: He supports Blueprint 2000 and believes more funding is needed. He also supports parent involvement in the schools.

Stone: He opposes Blueprint 2000 but supports parent input and involvement in decision making for the school system.

PUBLIC VOUCHER SYSTEM

FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Cunningham: He does not support it.

Stone: He supports it.

SEX EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

Cunningham: He supports the current system, based on abstinence, and the current committee-based system to review all curriculums.

Stone: He accepts the current abstinence-based program but believes it should be up to parents and not the schools to cover the topic.

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