Fred Clark's interest was piqued last year when he heard a school official mention a "small surplus" in the district's $91-million budget.
When he found out that the small surplus was $14-million, Clark was amazed, he said.
If school officials considered that figure small, Clark reasoned, the school system needed someone with a sharper pencil to help make financial decisions.
On Friday, Clark, an area businessman who has been involved in numerous community organizations, added his name to the growing list of candidates seeking the District 4 seat on the School Board. The position is now held by Patience Nave, who has not yet announced her plans. Two other candidates, Bill Murray and Felicia Kelly Smith, have also filed to run for the seat.
"Since I've been a kid, I've been working with kids," said Clark, chairman of the Citrus School Readiness Coalition. The 60-year-old New York native who came to Citrus County in 1993 from Staten Island does freelance business consulting in printing, promotion and tourism-related areas.
His prior professional background is varied. He spent 30 years in the military reserves, retiring as an Army Reserve major, and worked in a brokerage firm in jobs ranging from bookkeeping to data processing. He worked in graphic arts and publishing, owned his own candy and snack business, and worked in sales and management for a bakery company.
"I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up," quipped Clark.
Clark has been involved with the Citrus County Boys and Girls Club and served for a time as executive director. He has been on the United Way board, has worked with the Boy Scouts, is a member of the Inverness Rotary Club, is a past vice president of the Citrus Economic Development Council, is a board member of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Citrus County Military Officers Association.
While he doesn't have a college degree, he said his varied background is the perfect combination for a School Board member.
"You don't have to be a teacher to be a caring and compassionate person," Clark said. "We need people with a business background and a love of kids on this board."
In addition to his concerns about the district's budget, Clark said he wants to see the district provide students more time with guidance counselors to prepare for their futures. He also wants to reverse the erosion in cultural training, from civics to arts and music in the schools.
"These things just seem to keep getting pushed further and further back," he said.
Clark said he believes that if the schools can find and pay dozens of teachers to coach athletics after school, then the same emphasis could provide cultural activities after school if they cannot fit into the academic day.
He also said he favors offering students more opportunities so they can find what interests them. He would like to see academic lessons which provide more relevance "for the students so they can better understand how their courses relate to what they want to do in the marketplace."
The School Board election is nonpartisan, and the term is for four years. The race will appear on the Aug. 31 ballot, and the winner will have to earn 50 percent of the vote plus one. If that does not happen, the two highest vote-getters will move on to the general election ballot in November.
_ Barbara Behrendt can be reached at 564-3621 or behrendtsptimes.com.