Lynn Gray is the new chairwoman of the Hillsborough County School Board. Carol Cook is beginning another year as chair in Pinellas County.
With organizational meetings on both sides of the bay, one elaborate and the other perfunctory, leaders were selected in two districts that serve more than 300,000 public school students.
The longer meeting was in Hillsborough, where sitting members delivered sometimes tearful tributes to Steve Cona III, who lost his bid for re-election, and Melissa Snively, who chaired the board during the first nine months of the coronavirus pandemic.
The board then oversaw the swearing in of first-time members Jessica Vaughn, Nadia Combs and Henry “Shake” Washington. Although new to the board, Washington enjoys a long history with the district as an educator and administrator.
The decision to name Gray as chair was unanimous. Of three members running for re-election this year, she was the only one to hold onto her seat.
Board member Stacy Hahn won the post of vice chair in a 4-3 vote. Vaughn and Combs supported two-year board member Karen Perez for vice chair. Voting for Hahn were Gray, Washington and Snively.
At the Pinellas meeting, which took only 20 minutes, Caprice Edmond and Laura Hine took their first oaths of office. Cook and board member Eileen Long were sworn in for new terms.
Long, entering her second term, declined a nomination to serve as chair after having been the vice chair for the past year. She supported another year for Cook, who won the post unanimously. Long then nominated herself for another year as vice chair. Board member Nicole Carr also put her own name in for consideration, but Long won that contest.
While there were no speeches at the Pinellas meeting, there were remarks from the new members in Hillsborough, who vowed to prioritize the well-being of the district’s diverse population groups.
“We have a new board," Washington said. "And I have confidence that this board will do everything in our power to make this school system better than it is now.”