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Sally Harris talks about losing that Hillsborough school board race, and why she wants another try.

Three people have filed so far for the seat now held by Lynn Gray.
Sally Harris said she has more to accomplish and is mounting a return campaign for the Hillsborough County School Board. [Times | 2014]
Sally Harris said she has more to accomplish and is mounting a return campaign for the Hillsborough County School Board. [Times | 2014]
Published Sep. 12, 2019
Updated Sep. 13, 2019

TAMPA — Wednesday was Sally Harris’s trivia night, so the Tampa Bay Times did not hear from her in time for our story announcing her candidacy for Hillsborough County School Board.

She did, however, call back on Thursday to discuss her 2018 loss and her reasons for seeking a different seat on the board in 2020.

Harris, who represented South Tampa and southern Hillsborough was “primaried out,” which means she took just a third of the votes in a three-way primary. Challenger Stacy Hahn won more than 50 percent, avoiding a November runoff.

“The loss was devastating,” Harris said.

It’s not that she lacked for campaign advisers. “People kept saying, ‘Sally, you need to get out,’” she said. “And I did get out. I went to everything I was invited to. But I wasn’t pounding the streets. I guess I was just loyal to the job. And it was graduation [season].”

Harris said she campaigned in May, June and July. “But Stacy [Hahn] started in January! She literally outworked me, 100 percent.”

People told Harris, “pretend you don’t work for the district.” In other words, stop praising the school system so effusively.

“But felt I had seen so many changes, in a positive way,” she said.

“We had a balanced budget. We had the half penny tax [which was then in the campaign stage], the graduation rate, vocational education, early childhood education. We had done so many great things. I thought the whole world knew, and I’m naive, which is what everybody says all along. Sometimes I don’t look at reality as far as how the world looks at things, especially in politics. I loved what I was doing. I loved the way we drove things into a whole new direction.” When the August returns came in, “I was devastated.”

Harris told the Times in 2014, “I’m only going to do one term."

But, she said, “I loved it, you know? I loved every minute of it.” And, she added, "there is so much more to do,” which is why she is now challenging incumbent Lynn Gray in countywide District 7.

She wants to look for ways to provide more affordable health insurance to the district’s employees. And she wants to do something about the bullying that so many children experience from about the fourth grade through middle school.

She insisted that “I never left a school, with a problem, that I didn’t put it in writing and give it to Jeff” meaning Jeff Eakins, the superintendent. “I just didn’t advertise it.”

There will be no lack for strong opinions in that race.

Gray has established herself as an outspoken board member who doesn’t mind taking a minority position on issues, especially the growth of charter schools.

And that race has also attracted Josephine Amato, a visible presence ever since the district cut back on school busing.


  1. Clay County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis (wearing a pink tie), center, takes photos with the  Hillsborough County Public Schools board members after being voted unaminous as the new incoming superintendent in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
  2. University of Florida students walk through Turlington Plaza in between classes on Thursday afternoon, February 13, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla.
  3. Chikara Parks, right, along with her children in front of their home in St. Petersburg. In the back is Kamijah Laswon, 14. In front of Kamijah is her sister Tanijah Clark, 12. Their brothers are 7-year-old Tai'jon Carter, left, and Dai'quan Carbart, 9. The four children used to attend Pinellas public schools. Now they are in private schools, using Florida's tax credit scholarship program. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Florida Board of Education member Michael Olenick speaks during a July 17, 2019, board meeting in Polk County. [The Florida Channel]
  5. A new house under construction in Waterset on Big Bend Road in Hillsborough County's Apollo Beach area. Developed by Newland Communities, which also developed Fishhawk Ranch  in Hillsborough, Waterset has had more housing starts in the past year than any other new-home community in the Tampa Bay area. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
  6. Janiyah, left, and Stephanie Davis of Philadelphia, stand as they are recognized by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  7. School buses line the parking lot of the Hernando County Schools Transportation Center earlier this month. Detailed bus route information is expected to be available July 31, and can be found on the district website, (select "District," then "Transportation". [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  8. Florida lawmakers are considering changes to the state grant that helps students who attend private colleges and universities such as Eckerd College, whose 2005 commencement is shown here.
  9. Students from Lakewood Elementary School dismiss for the day in St. Petersburg, Monday, February 10, 2020.
  10. Orlando high school student Yomar Fontanez is shown rapping in a music video he released Wednesday to commemorate the victims of the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
  11. Chancellor Jacob Oliva explains recommended new academic standards in language arts and math to the Florida Board of Education at a Feb. 12, 2020, meeting in Tallahassee. The board unanimously adopted the proposal.
  12. Pasco County residents have recommended naming the school district's next high school after student Sean Bartell, Sheriff's deputy Capt. Bo Harrison and principal Adam Kennedy, each of whom has passed away. The district received dozens of proposals.