Candidates for Pinellas County School Board who will face voters in the August 30 primary election will participate in a Candidate Forum on June 21 at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center, 3200 34th St. S. The forum, co-sponsored by the St. Petersburg Chapter of the NAACP and SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The moderator will be Reginald Roundtree, news anchor of 10 News WTSP.
Nine candidates have filed with the Supervisor of Elections to run for three seats on the School Board. Because these are non-partisan offices, the winners will be decided in the primary unless a candidate fails to receive a majority of votes cast. In that case, a runoff election will be held on Nov. 8, during the general election.
Gordon Chernecky, NAACP Board member, said the forum is designed as a grassroots event to engage voters with the candidates seeking to represent their interests on the School Board. Instead of the typical candidate debate format of a panel of experts questioning the candidates, at this event all questions will be submitted by members of the audience to the moderator, who will facilitate the response process.
There is especially high interest in the School Board races this year because of a series of investigative reports by the Tampa Bay Times published last summer that revealed dismal educational results at five elementary schools in south St. Petersburg. Titled “Failure Factories,” the series reported how five once-average schools in poor predominantly black neighborhoods went downhill after the School Board abandoned integration in 2008.
The five elementary schools – Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose — rank among the lowest-performing schools in the state. In fact, Melrose and Fairmount Park are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, among worst school rankings, the newspaper reported. Cumulatively, eight in 10 students at the five schools fail reading on state standardized tests, while nine in 10 fail math, according to the articles. District 5 incumbent Carol Cook has two challengers, and District 4 incumbent Ken Peluso has two opponents. In the District 1 at-large race, three candidates have filed to run for the seat held by Janet Clark, who did not file for re-election.
“The St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP is poised to ensure that we provide our community with opportunities to address those who currently represent us and those who aspire to represent us,” said NAACP President Maria Scruggs.
Admission to the forum is free, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
For further information, call 727-394-6942