1. News
  2. /
  3. Gradebook

Pasco schools superintendent Browning to seek third term

First elected in 2012, Browning says he will run on his record.
Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning addresses the Florida Board of Education on May 22, 2019, at its meeting at Mort Elementary School in Tampa. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times] [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK | Times]
Published Nov. 1

After nearly eight years on the job, Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning says he hasn’t accomplished all he set out to do for improving the school system.

That’s why he has decided to seek a third term leading Florida’s 10th-largest district. Pasco County also is the biggest school district in the nation to elect rather than appoint its chief executive.

“I’ll be filing next week,” Browning said. “There’s still issues that need to be addressed, things to be completed.”

Topping his list is the continued expansion of academic options within the district schools.

When Browning took over the system in late 2012, after defeating incumbent Heather Fiorentino with nearly 65 percent of the vote, Pasco had a small number of choice programs — primarily International Baccalaureate at Gulf and Land O’Lakes high schools, a handful of career academies and a couple of self-contained gifted units.

Since then, the district has launched Cambridge in feeder patterns on the east and west sides, expanded the IB program into a few middle and elementary campuses, implemented STEM magnet programs within two middle schools and opened full magnet schools at Sanders Memorial Elementary and Krinn Technical High. The district is working to add Cambridge and IB programs into more schools, and plans to create at least two more magnet schools.

“I want to see more choice in our system,” Browning said.

He said he also wants to continue providing more professional growth opportunities for teachers, as the district did with the addition of early release days this year. And he intends to keep looking for ways to meet the demands of rising enrollment.

Such initiatives should help toward the most important objective of boosting student academic performance, Browning said.

“We’re going to be an A district,” he said.

When Browning took office, he called the district’s past performance “mediocre” and said the community should not be satisfied with “average.”

At the time, the state graded the district a B, with 34th most points earned among all 67 districts. When Browning sought reelection in 2016, its ranking on the state points system had dropped to 39th.

RELATED: Amid mixed reviews, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning aims higher for his second term

This year, Pasco fell to 41st on the list, while still retaining its B.

Over the same period, the district has seen its number of A-rated schools more than double, while eliminating all F grades. It also moved most of its lowest-performing schools off the state’s accountability warning list, though two still remain in jeopardy of a major overhaul.

Browning is not a college-trained educator. Before winning his post, he served as secretary of state for two Republican governors, and spent more than two decades as Pasco County’s election supervisor.

He has taken hits for not understanding all the nuances of what goes on in the classroom, including from Cynthia Thompson, the Bayonet Point Middle School teacher who has announced her plan to challenge for the seat.

But Browning contends that simply being a teacher cannot prepare a person for all the aspects of running what amounts to a $1.3 billion business that encompasses education, transportation, food service, security and so many other functions.

“That stuff doesn’t just happen,” he said, noting his administration has brought in efficiencies such as natural gas buses and a centralized energy monitoring system that have saved money.

He said he has learned significant amounts about the academic portion of the job by surrounding himself with top educators, and also by immersing himself into the schools where he can see firsthand what is happening and talk to the teachers and others who give insights into their needs.

He acknowledged that not everyone will be happy with all his decisions and actions. He has a string of past battles to illustrate the point.

A group of parents fought vigorously against the district’s 2016-17 school rezoning efforts, for instance, taking the system to court and forcing the administration to rescind and revise its plan and its procedures. The United School Employees of Pasco has twice fought Browning’s plans to increase salaries by cutting staff positions and asking those who remain to work different schedules.

The School Board rejected Browning’s proposals to close down Lacoochee, Marlowe and Hudson elementary schools, part of his plans to revamp the educational offerings for those communities. His continued attempts to make changes in the Hudson area have yielded a counter-initiative by the Dayspring Academy charter school, run by former state lawmaker John Legg, who has said Browning’s team has not done enough to help the poor communities of west Pasco.

Browning’s staunch support of transgender student rights has gained wide support from the board and the LGBTQ community across Florida. But it also has led to a fierce pushback from many conservative groups, including church organizations, who have said they plan to fight until the district changes its approach.

“The naysayers will always be naysayers,” Browning said. “They don’t like change. They don’t understand how complex this district is.”

He said he hopes the voters will see his time in office as largely positive for their children and the schools, and that he can win another four years.

“This is a great district, and there are a lot of great things going on,” he said.

Official candidate qualifying takes place in June. The primary election is Aug. 18, and the general is Nov. 3.


  1. Chanell Newell, a reading teacher at Woodson K-8 School, is a finalist for Hillsborough Teacher of the Year. HCPS  |  HCPS
    The winners will be announced on Jan. 23.
  2. A school bus travels the early morning streets of Pasco County on the way to the first day of classes in 2017.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  4. Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, on the left, present their latest pay request to the district's bargaining team during talks on Oct. 24, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Teachers have yet to reach a deal on their contract.
  5. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.
  6. FILE - In a Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, transgender teen Drew Adams, left, leaves the U. S. Courthouse with his mother Erica Adams Kasper after the first day of his trial about bathroom rights at Nease High School, in Jacksonville, Fla. The transgender student's fight over school bathrooms comes before a federal appeals court Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Drew Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, won a lower court ruling in 2018 ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP, File) WILL DICKEY  |  AP
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  7. A bird's-eye view of USF St. Petersburg, which this week announced a new member of the Campus Board. She is Melissa Seixas, a Duke Energy executive who earned her master's degree at USF.
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  8. An LGBTQ Pride march participant walks under a large rainbow flag in New York earlier this year. School Board policy regarding LGBTQ students has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent months in Pasco County. CRAIG RUTTLE  |  AP
    The discourse is more civil and respectful, two weeks after a session that many deemed hate-filled and vile.
  9. The Florida Legislature so far has has left Gov. Ron DeSantis to set most education policy priorities for 2020.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. "Miss Virginia," a film about school choice, will be screened at the Tampa Theatre on Dec. 10.
    “Miss Virginia” will be playing at the Tampa Theater on Tuesday.