1. Opinion

Times recommends: Peluso for Pinellas School Board

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Published Oct. 6, 2014

The Nov. 4 runoff election for the Pinellas County School Board District 4 seat will determine who succeeds Robin Wikle, who resigned halfway through her term. Both candidates have flaws, but Ken Peluso's broader perspective on the school district could bring needed diversity to a board dominated by educators.

A retired chiropractor, Peluso has a good grasp of state education policy and has served on both local and state early learning boards overseeing prekindergarten programs. He was a board member for private Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater. But Peluso appreciates the difference between public and private education, including the district's need to improve low-performing schools and better monitor publicly financed charter schools.

Peluso, 58, made an unfortunate misstep in August when twice in one day at public forums he professed support for teaching creationism alongside evolution, which would be a violation of the state's science standards. The next day, Peluso clarified he supported teaching creationism only as part of a world religion course. That's good, as the district has more pressing challenges than a culture war over widely accepted science.

Beverly Billiris, 66, is a former Tarpon Springs mayor and retired teacher. She has offered welcome discussion about how the district is too quick to limit some parents from volunteering. But she had failed to pay property taxes — which fund the school district — on a home and business until it was disclosed.

District 4 covers most of North Pinellas, including Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and parts of Clearwater. For Pinellas County School Board District 4, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Ken Peluso.