Meet the Candidates: School Board District 2

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Meet the Candidates: School Board District 2

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 13:53
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Elections 2020

District 2 is located in the south west corner of the county. Although school board members represent specific districts of the county where they reside, all voters who live in the county elect the school board member for a single district. These candidates will appear on all primary ballots  (NP, DEM & REP) as it is a nonpartisan election. Thank you to the candidates for providing a bio and answering our questions.

 

 

LINDA PRESCOTT (Incumbent)

Linda Prescott

I attended elementary school through college in Florida and have lived in Hernando County for 20 years.  My educational background includes a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business education and am ABD (all but dissertation) for a Ph.D.  I have been an educator for over 40 years and have had the opportunity to teach in seven different states: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Utah, California, and New York under the Regents Exams.   I have taught in middle schools, high schools, community colleges, universities, private schools, adult education schools, and a Women’s Prison. I have received three teaching awards with the most recent being Professor Emeritus status at Hillsborough Community College.  Because of my extensive teaching and supervisory experience, I have been exposed to many educational challenges and opportunities to influence changes. 
I have been actively involved in organizations and committees in the County and my Community since moving here.  As a School Board Candidate for District 2, I am running for re-election because I believe that schools are the backbone of a community and directly impact our future.  I became a Certified School Board Member after completing over 100 hours of advanced training.  When students succeed, we all succeed!  

Please describe the three top issues facing the school district and how you would address them.

1. Covid-19 Virus—Health, Welfare, Safety of employees and students
2. Retention and Recruitment of Employees
3. Funding

1. Currently our Return to School Plan is evolving and ever changing because of the virus.  We have added a third option for students of a blended online and traditional learning option. I am in favor of mandatory masks and a possible start date delay based on recommendations from the State and Health Department because of the rapidly increasing number of positive cases in Hernando County.

2. I believe if we provide some flexibility, the number of positive cases in the County begins declining rapidly, and we have safe Covid-19 guidelines based on recommendations from the State, Health Department, and CDC, employees will feel safe and will hopefully want to return to classrooms and new employees will want to work in the School District.

3. Funding is based on many variables but is primarily calculated with a complex formula using FTE (full-time enrollment).  Having students return to Hernando County public schools is important because the District must pay back any money received if the number of students declines from projections.  

But for parents, the decision to either send their children back to a traditional school, e-school, a blended learning option of online and traditional, a charter school, or a private school will depend on their confidence in the Covid-19 guidelines provided by the School Board. The District must provide parents with the factual information for them to make a decision about how best to meet their students educational needs.

Do you see any areas where the school district needs to increase funding?  How could this be paid for?

We definitely need more funding for our special needs students who deserve and are entitled to a good education and who depend on our School District to provide the resources they need to be successful. Currently we receive increased funding per student from the state and federal government but it is never enough to fund the ever increasing number of students. The lack of adequate funding is made up out of the General Fund. To fund these needs, the District continues to ask both the state and federal governments to increase allocations.  Another way would be to increase general revenue funding as we are currently trying to do.

Do you see any areas where funding/the budget can be cut?

The School District has made over $7 million dollars in cuts so far for this upcoming school year because of additional expenditures and costs.  More cuts will have to be made if revenue from the state is decreased.  An area I see where funding could be cut is travel.

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 am only in favor of decreasing the budget if we must do so to keep a balanced budget. Our staff levels are still not up to what they were before the recession. With the recent passage of legislature for a set minimum salary of $47,500 for beginning, teachers, it will definitely be a challenge to continue funding raises and other inflationary costs. However, the School Board must find a way to do this because retaining our teachers and staff and paying them a livable wage is a top priority. Our teachers make less than the state average, but they’re not average teachers as evidenced by our rate of graduations and school grades. The School Board will be asking for a 1 Mill Referendum in the November General Election with half of it going to salaries and the other half will go toward mental health and safety, enhanced technology, and expansion of successful academic and career and technical programs.

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

1. Hardening of Schools – Very important because of the safety of our employees and students.
2. Maintenance of Schools—Average age of our Schools is 30 years old and maintenance was deferred during the recession.
3. Updating Technology—Updates in software and equipment are badly needed to run the District and to provide student and staff computers, which will run current programs.
 

CHARLES HELM

Charles Helm

I am not a politician; I am a parent. 
I was born and raised in Florida and grew up in the Pasco-Hernando area. I have worked professionally in public school, in law enforcement, and now as an attorney. I have spent the majority of my professional career as a public servant. 
I have 3 children in our school district, the oldest in middle school. Like every other parent in our county, I want what is best for our kids. As a parent I have a true vested interest in advancing the schools in our county. I believe strongly that there should be at least one parent, with children in our school, on our school board. It is important to have someone on our school board who is not simply making decisions for us but will feel the effects, first hand, of every decision that they make. I want to serve as the voice of the parents, an advocate for our teachers, and an intermediary between the two. When teachers are excited and well equipped, and parents are well informed and involved, I believe there is no limit to what we can accomplish with our children here in Hernando County.

Please describe the three top issues facing the school district and how you would address them.

1) The safe return to school. We are in the middle of a dynamic and novel situation that deserves a commensurate response. True safety has to be prioritized. Keeping a clean environment and upgrading filtration to hospital grade while increasing ventilation is a must. Additionally, families should have the option transition from online to in person or vice versa as the health situation and our knowledge of it continues to evolve. 

2) Funding. Until we have an independent audit of our district’s spending and the value it adds to our students, we have no business asking our community for any more money like our current school board is doing right now. We need to redirect spending away from wasteful programs and positions and put it where it directly benefits our children; with the teachers and the classrooms. 

3) Vocational training. By increasing the availability and variety of vocational programs district wide my goal is that every student should, if they choose, be able to leave Hernando School District with a degree and a vocation certification.  

Do you see any areas where the school district needs to increase funding?  How could this be paid for?

I believe our current funding should be reallocated for things that directly affect our children: teachers, classroom equipment and supplies, extracurricular programs like arts, music, sports, and vocational training. To pay for these, I would advocate for an independent audit of our district finances so we can identify and cut funding to programs or positions that are not directly adding value to our students. 

Do you see any areas where funding/the budget can be cut?

I believe funding should be cut from any area that is not directly adding value to our students through their classrooms and their teachers. For example, our district recently cut media specialists in favor of an assessment coordinator position at district. As a parent, I can’t understand why we would divert money from our school, especially in an area like our media centers, in favor of more focus on testing. Media centers are one example of what I’m talking about when I mention money directly adding value to our students. Through our media centers, students have access to resources and have opportunities to learn skills that will help them long after they leave our schools. Instead, increased focus on testing helps our children do nothing more than pass that specific test. As a parent, I want our teachers to be able to teach again and our students to be able to learn more than how to pass a test.  

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?

Decreasing the budget without decreasing the value of education should always be a goal. That being said, without the independent audit for which I will advocate, I can only say that our district spending should be rerouted so it has the greatest impact to add value to our children’s education.

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

1) Adding value to our students through their teachers and classrooms 2) safety and security of our campuses and everyone on them, and 3) increased availability and variety of vocational training.  
 

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