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PINELLAS SCHOOL BOARD: DISTRICT 4

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Four candidates are vying to replace Jane Gallucci, who has held the North Pinellas board seat for 12 years: a math teacher, a former journalist, a chiropractor and the owner of a real estate business.

Chris Hardman, 55 Steven D. Isbitts, 39 Ken Peluso, 51 Robin L. Wikle, 45
Experience Hardman, a math teacher at Countryside High, is making his second run for a School Board seat after placing third in 2006 behind board members Nancy Bostock and Mary Russell. He joined the school system in 2002 after a career selling medical and pharmaceutical products. From 1975 to the early 1980s, he managed Glen Oaks Golf Course for the city of Clearwater. He graduated in 1974 from Florida State University with a degree in business management. Born in Indiana, Hardman moved to Pinellas when he was 5. He graduated from Largo High in 1970. Isbitts works in the relocation sales division of PODS Enterprises.Before that, he worked as a reporter for the Tampa Tribune. A New Jersey native, he says he spent most of his youth living in poverty and relied heavily on the public school system. After moving to Pinellas in 1995, Isbitts worked in franchise sales and hosted and produced talk radio programs. He worked four years as a freelance writer and then joined the Tribune from 2003 to 2006, covering school issues. He attended William Paterson University in New Jersey and the USF School of Continuing Education but did not graduate. Peluso has been a chiropractor for 25 years and owns Peluso Chiropractic and Rehab in Palm Harbor. He also is chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, an agency with a $51-million budget that distributes public money for early childhood and school readiness services such as the stateÕs prekindergarten program. Peluso has served on various local government boards in Palm Harbor. He graduated in 1979 from Merrimack College in Massachusetts and in 1983 from Sherman College of Chiropractic. In 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Florida House. Wikle and her husband have owned a Palm Harbor real estate business, Coldwell Banker Wikle Properties, for 15 years. Previously she worked as a special- education teacher for Pinellas schools for five years and was a part-time classroom assistant for four years. She has been active in Tarpon Springs civic affairs, serving on the Chamber of Commerce board and a city parks and recreation advisory council and leading a youth football and cheerleading league. In 1985, she received a masterÕs degree in special education from Florida State University.
Main pitch to voters ÒI would bring unique and relevant experience to this position. During the past six years, I have been a high school teacher in the Pinellas County school system, along with several years of previous corporate business experience.Ó ÒDiverse, applicable business experience. Strong knowledge of school district policies, challenges and responsibilities. Intense passion ... Excellent, trained listener. An inclusive, no-ego communication style. A fatherÕs commitment.Ó ÒI truly believe that to be an effective school board member one must have adequate experience dealing with multiple issues, including not only education issues but also multimillion-dollar budgets, union contracts and diverse community issues. I have that experience.Ó ÒI wish to build bridges, promote teamwork and encourage positive energy to the School Board.Ó As a parent, former teacher, business owner and community activist, she says sheÕs well-rounded. Says she would work at the job full time.
Views on a proposed change to school-based management Supports studying what made school-based management work in Okaloosa County and looking at educational programs that have worked in other districts. Says it shouldnÕt be an issue in the campaign and the district should hold off until a new superintendent comes aboard. Says it took Okaloosa County years to get it going. Would support a pilot first. Strongly supports the idea because Òwhat we have is simply not working. ItÕs time to act and decisively act.Ó However, wants Pinellas to develop its own plan rather than copy another county. Agrees with the concept of decentralizing the system but wants to ensure that the change works for Pinellas. Before committing, wants to travel to Okaloosa County to examine its plan.
Other issues Is concerned about morale. Says the teacher salary scale for routine raises, called Òstep increases,Ó favors veterans over younger teachers. Wants to reduce student absenteeism and make classes more relevant to studentsÕ lives. Wants the district to change the high school start time to 8 a.m. Says system should go after more revenue, such as advertising on buses. Says district should do a better job selling itself against competition from private schools. Calls for more emphasis on early learning and school readiness to address the achievement gap and graduation rate. ÒSimply put,Ó he says, Òwe must teach our children to learn.Ó Also supports new emphasis on career education. Not a fan of making high school start time later, saying it could limit valuable after-school activities. Strongly supports career programs like Centers of Excellence and says students need more time with tutors, mentors and counselors.
Assets Home, bank account Investments, belongings Home, cars, chiropractic practice, commercial property, other real estate, investments. Business, home, investments
Liabilities Mortgage, home equity line, credit cards Mortgage, credit card Home and commercial building mortgages Mortgages, business loan
Net worth $250,000 $193,000 $1.6-million $2.4-million
Source of income Teacher salary Salary at PODS Enterprises Chiropractic practice, rental income, investments Real estate business, investments
Personal Lives in Palm Harbor. Hobbies include golf and tennis. Lives in Clearwater with his wife, Nina, and three children, 7 months to 10 years old. Oldest daughter attends Curlew Creek Elementary. Lives in Palm Harbor with wife Julie and a son who attends Carwise Middle School. Has a stepson who graduated from Pinellas schools. Lives in Tarpon Springs with her husband, Paul. They have three sons ages 15 to 21. The youngest attends Tarpon High School.
Web site None listed ImprovePinellas.com kenpeluso.com VoteRobinWikle.org
E-mail None listed steve@isbitts4schoolboard.com drpeluso@earthlink.net GamePlan@VoteRobinWikle.org
About the job: District 4 encompasses Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and Dunedin and parts of Clearwater, including Countryside and north beaches. Seven board members serve staggered four-year terms. They oversee a system with more than 140 schools, 100,000-plus students and a $1.5-billion budget. Under a state formula, each earned $40,592 in 2007-08.

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