The chairman of a school advisory council, who is the husband of a teacher, wants to get parents more involved in public education.
Local Realtor Allan Brown says the two keys to creating a top-flight public school education are caring, involved parents and well-trained teachers.
As a husband of a longtime schoolteacher and chairman of Mittye P. Locke Elementary's school advisory council, Brown says he knows solving those two problems isn't easy. But he said he wants to try, and so he is running for the District 2 seat on the Pasco County School Board.
Brown, of St. Lawrence Drive in New Port Richey, said one way to address the teacher quality issue may be to give teachers more time to meet and plan lessons. He said he would like to see the district cut school short a half day each month and give the remaining time to teachers for planning.
He said he likes Pasco's attempts to team inexperienced teachers up with veterans, and fears the state's teacher shortage is a major crisis looming over schools.
"Even if we built 10 new schools, we won't have the teachers to fill them," he said. "Everybody would like a pay raise, but what teachers need first is better working conditions."
Brown's wife, Joyce, has taught in Pasco schools for about 20 years, Brown said. His two children attend River Ridge Middle School. He said he thinks both his children are receiving a good education in Pasco.
Brown, 55, also served on the committee of parents and administrators that recently redrew the attendance boundaries of 24 schools to make room for five new schools that will open over the next two years.
Brown said he supports charter schools that fill a niche public schools don't address. He said he is not completely sold on private school vouchers and said he thought the state's new standardized testing and school grading system are unfair to teachers working in low-income areas.
Last year the state began assigning letter grades to schools based primarily on how well their students fare on the Florida's new FCAT tests. Studies have shown that children living in poverty score lower on such tests than students from wealthy families.
"Right now, the FCAT is being pushed down (teachers') throats," Brown said. "There probably isn't a lot the School Board can do about that, but I do believe that the school system should exist for education, not just for testing purposes."
Brown also said he would like to see if the district could save money by privatizing its maintenance department.
For about 20 years, Brown owned and operated Bay Area Glass and Door Service in Tampa. He sold the company recently and joined a new local real estate firm that sells luxury homes. He said he is a charter member of the Seven Springs Rotary Club.
This is the first run for public office for Brown, a Republican. He grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Pasco 19 years ago, he said. He graduated from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
"We've tried lots of different things at Locke, but until parents get involved in their children's education, the school system will never be top-notch," he said.