Three candidates seek to replace retiring one-term School Board member Bill Dudley in District 6, which represents south-central Pinellas County.
Stephanie Meyer, making her second run in two years, has Dudley’s support to bring the conservative agenda promoted by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the board. First-time aspirants Brian Martin, a chemical engineer, and Kim Works, an insurance company Medicare case manager, said they were inspired to run in part to prevent Meyer’s bid.
They contended board members should be more connected to public education than Meyer, who teaches at Keswick Christian School and sends two of her children to private school. Meyer also is an adjunct history instructor at Hillsborough Community College.
Meyer retorted that she attended Pinellas schools and her mother was a longtime district teacher. Her family will choose among private, virtual and public schools as needed, she added.
Martin, 37, said he decided to seek election because of concerns that schools have become too politicized. He has four children in the district and said he wants to make sure decisions get made in the best interest of students, teachers and families — not because of partisan priorities.
He noted many controversial issues coming to the board, such as book challenges, have answers within existing board policies. Martin suggested the board must better explain its decisions, and said he would encourage widespread input and participation.
He called for students to have increased access to mental health and related services as needed. “Kids learn best when their needs are met,” Martin said.
Meyer, 40, argued the district needs to get “back to basics” in instruction. Students should not know teachers’ personal views, she said, stressing the importance of parents reviewing class materials to understand what’s being taught.
“I want our teachers to have the opportunity to do what they went to college to do,” Meyer said.
She said she supports equity in meeting individual student needs, but had concerns about how the district promotes the idea in teacher training.
Works, 51, said after years serving on PTA chapters and school advisory committees, she wants to participate at the board level. She said she brings the perspective of a “mom that’s been boots on the ground.”
She supports some of the DeSantis agenda, such as preventing transgender students from using the restroom of their choice, but not others, such as restricting lessons about race.
“We have to understand we are educating all children. Period. And nobody is going to be happy 100% of the time,” she said.
Works said she wants an increased focus on schools that saw student performance decline during the pandemic.
All three candidates agreed on one thing —the board should return to livestreaming public comment, and consider also airing workshop sessions, for better community access.
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