Hillsborough County School Board: District 6

Published Oct. 16, 2014

School Board | District 6

Brandon attorney Dipa Shah hopes to unseat April Griffin, who is running for her third term. Shah beat out six other contenders in the primary. Originally from India by way of suburban Pennsylvania, she has two school-aged sons and pledges to take an analytical, solutions-driven approach to board business. Griffin, whose passions include career education, prides herself on holding the administration accountable on issues including transportation and special education. By Marlene Sokol, Times staff writer

April Griffin, 45Dipa Shah, 43
Experience April Griffin has been outspoken in her two terms, calling for accountability and championing issues such as career education and the district's blue-collar workforce. Sometimes at odds with the superintendent, she's trying to improve a sometimes tense relationship with fellow board members. Dipa Shah is an attorney and a mother of two school-aged sons who supports education and wants to apply her training to the district. Born in India, she grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and specialized in bankruptcy law before she moved with her family to Brandon. She now provides legal services to small businesses.
EducationWorking on bachelor's, Eckerd College Temple University, Widener School of Law
How do you feel about Common Core and the Florida Standards?There is a lack of specificity, which makes it difficult to understand the new standards. I am concerned about the rigor in early levels. It will take time for both students and teachers to adjust. We are also racing to meet the technology requirements.If anything, the standards could be higher in certain areas. (But) the curriculum and books must be CCSS approved books. Teacher pay based on student performance leads to educators hedging their bets and "teaching to the test."
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Gates efforts to improve teaching? The major strength of the Gates effort is the new teacher mentors. There is finally a real emphasis on teacher evaluation in public education. (But) I have consistently asked about the safety net for teachers who do not agree with their evaluation. I have been assured there are processes in place. A recent case revealed that is not the case.The mentoring and support is great for new teachers. (But) EET (Empowering Effective Teaching) does not help the experienced teacher. This results in less incentive for the experienced teacher, more demoralization and discouragement, and results in less retention. With some work, we may still be able to use the concepts and learn from the mistakes.
Do you support the district's push on advanced placement classes? There are students' GPAs hurt because of being pushed into AP courses and there are children who are helped. I support challenging children, but when the whole emphasis is on AP there are lost opportunities in the area of elective courses that can spark a child's desire and passion to pursue a career through exploration. In theory, it is great to push students to AP because then the student will be challenged. However, this challenge should not be to the student's detriment. If the student is going to be stretched too much, the student and family should be aware of the extra challenge and be permitted to make an informed decision.
Fundraising$37,921 raised as of Oct. 10 $126,835 raised as of Oct. 10
Financial disclosureAssets: Two homes. Liabilities: Mortgages. Income: Husband's salary, School Board pay. Assets: House, car, bank accounts. Liabilities: Mortgage, car loan. Income: Law practice, investments.
PersonalMarried, two childrenMarried, two children;;

About the job: Hillsborough School Board members oversee the nation's eighth-largest school district. They meet at least twice a month for regular board meetings, and other times for workshops, legal and termination hearings. The job pays $42,000 a year and the terms run four years. District 6 is at-large, spanning the entire county.