A Zephyrhills High School math coach who supports the parent rights movement championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to serve on the Pasco County School Board.
Clyde L. “CJ” Smith II filed papers Friday signaling his plan to seek the District 2 seat held by Colleen Beaudoin. Beaudoin has said she expects to seek reelection but has not completed any paperwork.
Smith has worked in Pasco public schools since 2010. He said several teachers who share his perspective on parental rights often find themselves at odds with the teachers union and worry about speaking out.
“It seems like the more we keep our mouths quiet and our voices are never heard, then everyone assumes the direction we are going is the only way things can be,” he said. “If I can’t be myself and speak out for my children in education, it would be a disservice.”
He said he’s a strong believer in standards-based education, in which teachers provide all students the same opportunity to learn and be held to the same criteria. Teachers should be able to vary their instructional methods to meet individual needs, he said, but it should not be allowed for some to move slower so that a learning gap emerges.
Smith, who lives in Land O’ Lakes with his wife and two children, stressed the importance of teaching students how to think, and not what to think. He said he has seen some lessons where viewpoints are infused, such as when learning about climate and habitat.
The materials sometimes discuss how human actions negatively affect nature and how we can help protect them, he said. “I see a lot of activism like that.”
Teachers should instruct and grade students based on standards and facts, he said, and not use personal opinions as a guide.
Smith said he wants to see the district stop pressuring so many students to go to college, while many can find successful careers without that expense. He called for the district to eliminate teacher training that hints at critical race theory and social-emotional learning, which he said he has occasionally seen.
He also contended that all schools should be considered safe spaces. Students should have at least one adult in school they feel comfortable talking to, Smith said, but that the adults should call parents to let them know what is happening with their children.
It’s important, he added, that people who disagree about issues stop devolving into arguments: “Sometimes we’ve become so politically divided that people are afraid to have a conversation.”
Smith has gained early support of the Pasco Watch group that backed three unsuccessful board challengers in 2022. Official qualifying for the election comes the week of June 10, 2024.
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