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Pasco School Board member ends tenure with concerns, and a smile

Steve Luikart retires after two terms on the board, which followed a lengthy career in the schools.
Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikart at his final board meeting Nov. 6, 2018. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikart at his final board meeting Nov. 6, 2018. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Published Nov. 6, 2018

Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikart couldn't stop grinning Tuesday as he approached the final meeting of his eight-year tenure.

A teacher and administrator in the district for three decades before joining the board, Luikart looked forward to a retirement of fishing — "and shrimping and scallops," he reminded, after receiving a gift of lures and fishing shirts from his colleagues.

"It has been a pleasure most of the time to serve with you," Luikart told the board and staff.

He reeled off a list of accomplishments he praised the district for achieving over the years, noting "there's a whole lot more good than bad." Among them, he cheered the growth of the district's school security system, the rise of STEM programs, and the work done with Penny for Pasco funds thanks to the support of voters.

But Luikart, who often has served as the board's critic and naysayer, couldn't let the moment pass without raising two disappointments.

One was the layoff of about 155 teachers near the start of his term. It was no fault of the district, he said, but it haunted him since.

The other is one that continues even now.

Luikart blasted the notion of closing schools, which the board did this year with Ridgewood High and is contemplating next year for Lacoochee Elementary.

"Schools are cornerstones of those neighborhoods and also provide safe zones," he said, and more effort should be placed into maintaining them.

He suggested a failure to keep them represents a lack of desire, a lack of knowledge or a lack of skilled staff to envision a positive future for the sites.

"You cannot put dollar signs on communities or students," Luikart said.

Other board members thanked Luikart for holding all decisions to his unyielding demand that students must come first.

Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong noted the plaque Luikart kept at his seat on the dais, which read, "Let's base all of our decisions on what is in the best interest of the students."

She thanked him for "keeping us on our toes, questioning every decision."

"Steve is stern but kind and loving," said vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley, whose children attended River Ridge High when Luikart was assistant principal.

They joined the board in the same year.

"It's just not going to be the same without you," Crumbley said.

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