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Candidates share their strengths, views


Published:   |   Updated: August 4, 2014 at 08:48 AM

The three candidates running for the School Board of Highlands County District 1 answered a few questions about why they are running, what they consider their priorities and challenges they think the school board faces. Early voting is from Aug. 16-23 in Sebring, Avon Park and Lake Placid. The primary election is Aug. 26. ­— Staff report

Charlene Edwards

School Board of Highlands County District 1

Q: What are the main issues you see facing the Highlands County School Board and how do you hope to address them?

A: To successfully implement the Common Core we must ensure the time and resources needed to support teachers and parents are in the budget. We are currently at a crossroad with what has the potential to be a ground-breaking set of new Florida State Standards. It will be a challenge to understand the issues surrounding the standards and their implications for practice.

Q: Why do you think you are the best candidate for the job?

A: In addition to my administrative and fiscal experience, I have strong knowledge of early childhood development and the importance of engaging families early and often in their child’s education. It is important that the board includes someone with this knowledge and focus.

Q: If the half-cent sales tax proposal on the November ballot does not pass how do you propose to meet the anticipated shortfall in infrastructure and capital needs?

A: I agree we need to pass the half-cent sales tax. If not, the current budget must be amended to ensure all health and safety items are prioritized and corrected. Items that are not health and safety should be ranked in order of importance. Other forms of revenue to meet capital expenditure needs must be explored.

Q: Are there any issues the school board has handled that you disagree with?

A: There are no issues the school board has “handled” that I disagreed with. There are matters that I think have not been adequately addressed and could be strengthened, such as ensuring that all parents are appropriately involved in all aspects of local school discussions and decisions-making processes.

Q: What’s been your involvement in public school education?

A: In addition to active involvement while my children attended school (and) my 25-year employment with a large, statewide, non-profit child development organization, I was involved with:

♦ The operation of our county’s teen parent programs.

♦ The transition of preschool children and their families from VPK to public school

♦ Helping parents understand the importance of education and to develop skills to advocate for their child.

♦ The operation of over 80 Child Development Centers and after-school programs, and three charter schools in 21 Florida counties.

Q: What made you run for office? Have you ever been in public office before?

A: I have not run for office before. I ran for office because I believe my knowledge and experience in the areas of administration, finance, and facilities, along with my passion for the importance of early childhood education and involving and including teachers and parents in the decision-making process have become increasingly important.

AlJoe Hinson

School Board of Highlands County District 1

Q: What are the main issues you see facing the Highlands County School Board and how do you hope to address them?

A: I feel that the changing of principals and assistant principals from school to school is an issue.

Q: Why do you think you are the best candidate for the job?

A: I was born in Avon Park. Also, I am a graduate of E.O. Douglas High School in Sebring and Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. I taught mathematics for 38 years, one year at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, 31 years at high schools in Dade County and six years in Highlands County at Avon Park Middle School.

I have taught diverse populations, for example white, black and Hispanic. I am and always have been concerned with the education of children.

Using my ability as a teacher, I coached baseball, softball, football and was head baseball coach at Miami Sunset Senior High, Northwestern Senior High; business manager at Miami Carol City Senior High; and athletic director at Miami Norland Senior High. This makes me qualified for the position of Highlands County School Board District 1

Q: If the half-cent sales tax proposal on the November ballot does not pass, how do you propose to meet the anticipated shortfall in infrastructure and capital needs?

A: The school board must have a capital improvement plan with priorities in place. The plan must be reduced and some priorities must be placed on hold.

Q: Are there any issues the school board has handled that you disagree with?

A: I feel if a citizen has the courage to bring an issue to the school board, the board should have the courage to weight the issue after they have heard the citizen. I also feel that the approval of the change of principals, assistant principals and coaches should not be changed as often as I’ve seen.

Q: What’s been your involvement in public school education?

A: I taught mathematics for 38 years, one year at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, 31 years at high schools in Dade County and six years in Highlands County at Avon Park Middle School.

I was assistant football coach for 28 years, head baseball for 20 years, head softball for six years, business manager at Miami Carol City Senior High and athletic director at Miami Norland Senior High.

Q: What made you run for office? Have you ever been in public office before?

A: I am running for the children and teachers of Highlands County. Yes, I served one term as a city councilman in Avon Park.

Q: What do you think are the strengths or weaknesses in Highlands County schools?

A: I feel the teachers are the strengths of Highlands County Schools. They are and should be treated as professionals.

Ronnie L. Jackson

School Board of Highlands County District 1

Q: What are the main issues you see facing the Highlands County School Board and how do you hope to address them?

A: Financial needs. New wings are needed at Park and Lake Country Elementary schools. Maintenance is needed at all facilities. New buses are needed and (we have) to improve safety and technology. The half-cent sales tax is vital for the school system.

Q: Why do you think you are the best candidate for the job?

A: I have worked and been involved with the school system for the past 41 years — 37 as a teacher and coach at Avon Park High School. As a career educator in Highlands County, I am familiar and aware of what the school system does and needs.

Q: If the half-cent sales tax proposal on the November ballot does not pass, how do you propose to meet the anticipated shortfall in infrastructure and capital needs?

A: The school board will go through the budget and analyze all departments. Certain programs may have to be cut or eliminated.

Q: Are there any issues the school board has handled that you disagree with?

A: As a board we all have different ideas and beliefs. As a whole, the board has made decisions that best benefit the student, teachers and all personnel, and the community.

Q: What’s been your involvement in public school education?

A: Thirty-seven years as a teacher and coach at Avon Park High School; four years on the school board, current year as chairman; work with several organizations to support and raise funds for the school programs; co-founder of the Avon Park Champions Club in 2012.

Q: What made you run for office? Have you ever been in public office before?

A: I’m a career educator that believes in the public education system. My passion for 51 years has been helping and mentoring our youth.

I am currently on the school board and have not run for any other public office.

Q: What do you think are the strengths or weaknesses in Highlands County schools?

A: Strengths: Strong leadership, excellent teachers and support staff.

Weaknesses: As teachers retire, the inability to recruit top-qualified teachers to replace them.

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