Pinellas School Board: The Times Editorial Board recommendations
Two seats are being contested in the general election.
Pinellas School Board members will have to help the district deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Pinellas School Board members will have to help the district deal with the coronavirus pandemic. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 7, 2020

In Pinellas County, two School Board seats are up for grabs in the general election. The board oversees a $1.5 billion budget and more than 100,000 students. District 1 is a countywide seat, while District 7 is open to all registered voters in that community. The seven School Board members are paid $46,630 and generally serve four-year terms, unless a member resigns early. The races are non-partisan.

District 1 (Countywide)

Laura Hine

Laura Hine
Laura Hine [ Courtesy of the candidates ]

This appears to be a close race between two viable candidates. Both are relative outsiders — one hasn’t taught school; the other has taught at a private school for a short time. Both say they believe in some level of school choice and both would bring a fresh perspective to the School Board. But Laura Hine gets our vote.

Hine, 45, is a U.S. Naval Academy grad who has an MBA from the University of South Florida. She was the project director of the $65 million, 132,000 square foot facility that now houses the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, which opened in 2018 in downtown St. Petersburg. She now leads that museum, the kind of executive leadership experience the board needs.

Hine has never been a classroom teacher, but on a seven-member board that already includes several teachers, that isn’t particularly detrimental. It also didn’t stop the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association from endorsing her campaign. She understands the major issues facing the district and gained valuable experience as the founding president and director of the Friends of North Shore Elementary, which helped improve the struggling school in northeast St. Petersburg.

Hine won almost 44 percent of the vote in the three-person August primary. That moved her to the general election contest, where she faces Stephanie Meyer, who captured 32 percent.

Meyer, 38, is a teacher at private Keswick Christian School in St. Petersburg, where she has worked for about two years. Before that, she had a long career in sales and marketing, including at Procter & Gamble. She champions school choice and would like to end teaching of what she called “revisionist history” in public schools.

Hine, whom we recommended in the primary, would bring a greater breadth of experience and leadership skills to the board. She talks about the importance of building coalitions, which helps on a board with six other members. For Pinellas County School Board District 1, the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board recommends Laura Hine.

District 7 (south county)

Karl Nurse

Karl Nurse
Karl Nurse [ Karl Nurse ]

This race has two candidates running for School Board for the first time, though one spent 10 years on St. Petersburg City Council. Both would improve the current School Board, but Karl Nurse’s political experience and track record make him the better candidate.

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Nurse, 65, is more likely to enhance the standing of students in the district and isn’t handcuffed by union ties. A creative thinker who has lived in the district for decades, Nurse knows how to build consensus on a board. His experience running a successful printing business with nearly 50 employees will be an asset as the School Board navigates difficult financial times. He will bring an outsider’s perspective and should be less susceptible to protecting sacred cows.

Nurse, whom we recommended in the primary, lacks teaching experience, but again, the School Board doesn’t lack for teachers. Before the primary, he told the Times that he’s humble enough to know that he won’t understand everything about what it’s like to be a teacher. “I bring other needed skills to the table,” he said. He would push for programs that help struggling kids catch up by the third grade. He also wants schools to better prepare kids who aren’t headed to college by incorporating more apprenticeships and real-world internships.

Nurse chaired the Tampa Bay Community Development Corporation as well as St. Pete Neighborhood Home Solutions, and is currently on the board for the local Habitat for Humanity. He led the four-person primary with nearly 33 percent of the vote. Caprice Edmond placed second with 25 percent.

Edmond, 33, is a science coach at Fairmount Park Elementary who is involved with the local teachers union, which has endorsed her campaign. She has worked as a guardian ad litem and speaks passionately about bettering children’s lives inside and outside the classroom. She would like the School Board to devote more resources to support mental health and wrap-around services that help students stay in school and on track.

Race became an issue when Nurse, who is white, joined the contest in the spring. Edmond and the other two candidates in the primary are Black, and the District 7 seat has traditionally been held by a Black candidate. The winner will replace Rene Flowers, the only Black member of the School Board. So, as you make your own choice, you should know that electing Nurse will result in an all-white School Board.

Still, Nurse is the better candidate, the one more likely to improve the plight of students in District 7 and across the county. The board needs someone with his outsider’s view, someone more likely to push for creative change, the kind of improvements that will lift up struggling schools, and make the good ones even better. For Pinellas County District 7, the Times Editorial Board recommends Karl Nurse.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news