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HomeUncategorizedPrimary 2018: District 3 Hernando County School Board Candidates

Primary 2018: District 3 Hernando County School Board Candidates

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Jules Blazys

Jules Blazys

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Candidate Bio (Provided by Candidate):

Education: BS , MBA Loyola University
MT(ASCP) Holy Cross Hospital

Community Service:        
ARC volunteer
Habitat for Humanity Board member and home builder
YMCA Togetherhood volunteer
Brain Bowl Volunteer
Kiwanis of Hickory Hills Illinois
Varnas Montessori volunteer Chicago
Assistant Coordinator Pathways of Chicago
 
I am committed to:

Safety in our schools
Special needs and mental health support
Preparing graduates for success beyond high school
Emphasis on early education
Meaningful and appropriate testing
Arts and music in all schools
Life skills and mentoring programs
Meaningful and appropriate testing
Teacher directed test content and curriculum
Fair evaluations and labor practices

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As a board member: 
I will listen to all involved; be accessible; communicative; involved;
Do my research and be nonjudgmental.  I will seek cooperation and
Involvement from students, parents, teachers, administrators,
Elected officials and the community.

Q & A with Jules Blazys:

What attributes are most important for school district leadership and explain your reasoning. (Example: team player, data driven, experience in the district etc)

1.   Be available and transparent. Be there for staff, students, parents and community to work through issues, generate options and solutions. Create trust by valuing everyone.
2.    Be involved with each school on a personal level.  The best decisions come from knowing what will really work for everyone. We need to go beyond just looking at data.
3.  Create an environment that enables great teamwork … sponsor values of integrity and compassion.
4.      Generate funding by working with elected officials. 
5.  Make financially responsible, quality decisions.  Create realistic budgets to support the plan. Know how to interpret data so that decisions are based on fact, not fiction. Generate new options and innovations that get results.
6.  Be personally accountable.

Please describe the three top issues facing the school district.
 
1. School Safety.  Two goals—(1) Harden our schools (2) Expand funding and staff for our mental health and special needs students. The number of social workers, school psychologists and paras is far too limited to serve our needs. Emotional safety is just as important as physical safety in creating a positive and safe learning environment.
2. Vocational training. Two goals—(1) We need additional training tracks to prepare students for jobs (2) Internship programs are necessary to give students the experience to be hired.  Only 16% of Hernando county students get bachelor degrees, and only 11% associate degrees. There is a critical need for vocational training in skilled trades, health care, retail, technology and self-employment.
3. Curriculum reform and testing. Two goals—(1) Teachers need to write the tests themselves, to assure that the questions are actually relevant and encouraging to students.  (2) Let teachers teach. Right now, teachers teach to the tests. Students must test out at least 4 times each year, in addition to regular classroom testing. Teachers need to be able to develop their own curricula that fit their classrooms.
 
Do you feel that next year’s budget should be increased, decreased and by how much. 

If you are in favor of increasing the budget, how do you recommend paying for it?

If you are in favor of decreasing the budget, how do you pay for obligated salary increases, 
cost of living increases and other inflationary costs? 

 
Increase the budget. “Education Week”, an independent news organization, rates Florida school funding with an F.
We have many underfunded programs:  Mental health and special needs services … school safety hardening … continuing education for teachers … school maintenance … arts and music programs … teacher salaries.
Current Hernando county funding is low—only $8606 per student. That’s over $300 below the Florida state average of $8920, and over $3000 below the US average of $11762.  We should increase the budget by $200 per student ($4.43 million) to get closer to the Florida average.
How to increase funding: Elect and lobby officials to increase Federal, State and County funding … collect impact fees and millage fees … cultivate business sponsors …  consider creative ideas such as in-school stores and auditorium rentals.
 
Please describe up to three projects that are most important to the school district and why?
 
There are many things we can do to solve our issues. I have many ideas; I will address only 3 here.
I am personally deeply committed to stopping school violence, so I offer two ideas for that.
Please notice–All these projects cost nothing to implement—and they move us far ahead on our key goals.

1.   School Safety: Implement the Sandy Hook Promise. This program teaches staff and students how to recognize the signs of gun violence. With education we can keep our schools safer.

2.   School Safety: Train volunteers to help calm behavior disorder students. One simple, critically-needed project that we can do without money is to have trained volunteers who sit with behavior-disorder students outside the classroom, to help them calm down. This prevents classroom disruption, and allows teachers and principals to continue their jobs. It also reduces the probability of the child from being Baker-acted.

3.  Vocational school expansion: Move forward on the proposal with Habitat for Humanity to provide on-the-job experience in carpentry, plumbing, electrical and HVAC.

Jimmy Lodato

Jimmy Lodato

Candidate Bio (Submitted by Candidate):

Jimmy has been heavily involved with the School District for several years. As Chairman of the Steering Committee, he most recently spearheaded the campaign to revive the half cent, which will generate $120 million over ten years for school capital improvements. The initiative passed by a 60.5% majority. During the campaign, Jimmy visited all Hernando county schools and met with teachers, students and school employees who shared the needs of the District with him. He saw the needs are great and decided to run for School Board.

Jimmy Lodato was born and raised in Tampa, Florida, where he graduated from Jefferson High School and attended the University of Tampa. After a successful career as Vice President with a national company, Jimmy founded three businesses specializing in statewide sales, service, marketing and advertising of non-food products in the food and drug trade. He and his wife, Tammy, have been married over 37 years and moved to Hernando County in 1999 from Tierra Verde.

Jimmy currently serves as a member of the board for the Hernando County Education Foundation, is a sponsor and volunteer for Kiwanis Back to School programs, involved with Communities in Schools and a member of Sons of Italy in Hernando County. He was awarded the Outstanding Community Engagement Award from Hernando County Education Foundation as well as Award from Hernando County School District for Faithful Dedication and Tireless Commitment as Co-Chair of Save Our Schools Campaign to Restore the Half Cent.

Q and A with Jimmy Lodato:

What attributes are most important for school district leadership and explain your reasoning. (Example: team player, data driven, experience in the district etc)

It is important that a board member has the knowledge and the understanding to examine all facets of the district and to bring the teachers, students and parents together in order for the district to thrive.  For the last six years, as a private citizen I worked with this board and as chairman to restore funding to repair our schools.  Our objective was to bring the school district, the county and this community together and this was achieved.  The unification from the initiative has brought all these factors into position at this time and I feel that with the proper team the success of this district will continue to improve.

Please describe the three top issues facing the school district.

1.  Funding for the state mandate to harden the schools and continue the presence of school resource officers
2.  Continue to balance our budget
3.  Expansion of student programs, such as mental health issues, special needs and vocational training.

Do you feel that next year’s budget should be increased, decreased and by how much. 

There is no other candidate in my race that understands the total financial picture of the district the way I do.  During my experience on the steering committee for the half cent and working with the budget committee, I was given full financial information on the condition of the district.  With the additional half-cent funding provided for school repairs and capital improvements, I believe the budget should remain very close to where it is now.

If you are in favor of increasing the budget, how do you recommend paying for it?
See answer above.
 
If you are in favor of decreasing the budget, how do you pay for obligated salary increases, 
cost of living increases and other inflationary costs? 

See answer above
 
Please describe up to three projects that are most important to the school district and why?

1.  Expand vocational training.  Last year 1,500 students graduated and over 500 will not attend college.  Vocational training will provide these students with the skills to get a job right out of high school that will lead to a successful career path.

2.  Reduce busing for elementary schools to one mile (from two miles) and add sidewalks to all schools.  Our young children are at risk every day walking to school alone, in inclement weather, and in the street.

3. Increase teacher pay and benefits. Teachers, in my opinion, are under appreciated. Everyone who has attended school always remembers the teachers who had the greatest influence on their lives.  I want teachers to have the respect and appreciation they deserve.  Dedicated happy teachers create happy students, which leads to a positive learning environment.  Happy students make happy parents, which will lead to a strong bond within our community.

Diane Rowden

Diane Rowden

Candidate Bio (Provided by Candidate):  

My husband Jay, of 47 years, and I have resided in this beautiful community for 35 years. Both our children, son Jay II and daughter Dayna, graduated from the Hernando County school system. Additionally, both attended and graduated from Florida colleges. This firsthand experience gives me greater insight to the needs of our schools and a more amiable perspective when making decisions to provide the best educational opportunities available to our Hernando County students.

I had a very successful career with Delta Airlines, retiring after 32 years, in 2002. In 1990 I was elected to the Hernando County School Board. I fought hard for the students, teachers, non-instructional employees and parents, while battling an out of control budget. I was elected to the Hernando County Board of County Commission and served the public for 12 years as a county commissioner. 

My community involvement goes well beyond government. I am presently an active volunteer for NAMI Hernando (National Alliance on Mental Illness). 
I hope this helps you to understand just how important this community is to me and the time and effort I have put in to helping Hernando County remain a great place to live. This goes to the core of my personality and comes from the bottom of my heart. My experience, my commitment and my involvement in this community makes me not only qualified but worthy of your consideration for the position as a School Board Member of Hernando County. 

Q and A with Diane Rowden:

What attributes are most important for school district leadership and explain your reasoning. (Example: team player, data driven, experience in the district etc) 

Honesty, integrity and experience.
Honesty and integrity is vital when interacting with fellow board members, students, parents and teachers. If you are not trustworthy you cannot lead.  It is all part of leadership.  As a 16 year public servant I have proven my honesty and integrity to the community.

Please describe the three top issues facing the school district. 

School safety—harden schools and provide safety training for students and staff.
Increase workforce programs/vocational training—more programs are needed to meet industry demands and provide career opportunities.
New teacher recruitment and retainment—national teacher shortage.
 
Do you feel that next year’s budget should be increased, decreased and by how much. 

Budgets are very dynamic and you don’t know until you see the revenue projection or obligations for the year. 
While serving on the county commission I am proud of my budgetary accomplishments…one of those was the fiscal decision to create reserves for possible future short falls in revenue. We all know what happened in 2008. By having these reserves to draw upon, the county was in a position to not raise taxes. As a result, the County’s bond rating reached a historic high.  I will demonstrate the same fiscal responsibilities as a school board member. 

If you are in favor of increasing the budget, how do you recommend paying for it? 

The School Board had their first budget hearing last week. The second hearing will be before elections so I will not have any input this year. 

If you are in favor of decreasing the budget, how do you pay for obligated salary increases, cost of living increases and other inflationary costs? 

I have no way of knowing until the board starts budget discussions, but the last place to make any cuts, if necessary, will be the classroom.

Please describe up to three projects that are most important to the school district and why.
 
Focus on giving teachers more time in the classroom and less time with paperwork. We have to give our teachers time to plan rather than spending time on paperwork. 

Increase mental health services for students. Many children are never or go as long as ten years before being diagnosed with mental health problems. The sooner the diagnosis the better the outcome. I was instrumental in helping save NAMI, “National Alliance on Mental Illness” from closing their doors and am proud to say that today, NAMI Hernando is one of the purest success stories in the whole state of Florida.

Increase emphasis on music and cultural education. Research shows musical training helps develop language and reasoning skills and improves academic performance.
 

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