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Stay the course with the Pasco School Board

Published Oct. 8, 2005

Both races for Pasco County School Board boil down to one question: Should Pasco County stay the course or change its educational policy? Pasco schools face difficult problems but have taken promising steps to address them. Educational reform is under way. Student discipline is a small problem compared with other Florida school districts. There is no cause for alarm here. Even the challengers acknowledge that Pasco schools are generally well run. Consequently, we recommend re-election of Kathleen Wolf and Dorothy Mitchell to stay the course.

District 5: Kathleen Wolf

Wolf is an asset to Pasco's public schools. She is an educator by profession who follows trends in her field. She pays attention to educational research. She educates herself about education. Such knowledge and expertise are of obvious value to any School Board member.

Wolf is thrifty with tax dollars. She carefully analyzes proposed budgets. Her attention to detail pays off. For example, she managed to trim expenses at the new Cotee Elementary School by identifying and eliminating an obscure line-item, which called for planting an excessive number of trees at the school.

Wolf also is the chief proponent of progressive environmental policies. Thanks to her, Pasco schools recycle their waste and purchase products manufactured from recycled waste. Her philosophy is that public schools should set an example for students who attend them.

Wolf's opponent, Craig McCart, is a professional comedian. Though he travels much of the year, he has served his community as founding chairman and director of the Sertoma Speech and Hearing Center. If elected, he says, he will trim his travel schedule to serve on the School Board. His willingness to serve is admirable but his qualifications are thin and they pale in comparison to Wolf's.

McCart expresses some legitimate concerns about Pasco schools. For example, he says, the student code of conduct should be enforced uniformly. But McCart is mistaken about certain facts and appears uncertain about some of his own opinions. During an interview he expressed reservations about Florida's Blueprint 2000 reform program, criticizing it and the "continuous progress" classroom as "experimental." Later in the interview he appeared to meekly endorse continuous progress. "I'm perfectly willing to give continuous progress a chance. I'm not an educator and I not saying whether this will or will not work," he said.

McCart himself offered the best reason to vote for Wolf. He described Pasco schools as "good." We agree. There is no reason to replace Wolf, one of Pasco's most effective School Board members, with a relative unknown.

District 3: Dorothy Mitchell

The knock on Mitchell is that she is a rubber stamp for Pasco Schools Superintendent Tom Weightman. Such criticism is overblown, but Mitchell's record does reflect support for the administration. This is to her credit. Her support for Weightman's policies is indicative of her own good judgment.

Mitchell has served as a member of the board for 16 years. She is intimately familiar with Pasco schools and Pasco County. Her work on the board is motivated by a genuine abiding concern for children. Her support for Blueprint 2000 is largely a product of this concern. So was her support for the Schwettman Education Center, the alternative school that is emerging as a real success story in the education of troubled children.

Mitchell's opponent, Finley Gable, is a former New Port Richey police chief who was fired on charges later refuted by a federal jury. He describes himself as an advocate of back-to-basics education and is critical of Blueprint 2000, which he describes as an experiment. "What I am concerned about is mediocracy," he said.

We are concerned that a vote for Gable is a vote for mediocrity on the Pasco School Board. He acknowledges that he has not personally observed school reforms in the lower elementary grades but asserted that they fail to teach children to read. He said he is qualified for the School Board because "I'm a people individual." He criticized Blueprint 2000 as an experiment, then commended its reforms as "basically sound." He said Pasco schools "leave a lot to be desired," then gave them credit for "doing a good job" Frankly, we aren't sure what Gable really thinks and we aren't sure he does, either.