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School board candidates speak at Wednesday’s Suncoast Tiger Bay virtual forum

Jaymi Butler

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school board

As election day draws ever closer, the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosted a virtual forum Wednesday afternoon featuring three of the four candidates running for Pinellas County School Board District 1 and 7. They are:

They are:

  • Laura Hine, the executive director of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, a Navy veteran and public education advocate. Her priorities are equity in education, support for educators and optimization of financial resources.
  • Caprice Edmond, a Fairmount Elementary science coach and lab teacher with an extensive background in volunteering as an advocate for children. Her areas of interest include educational equity, targeted academic success initiatives, teacher recruitment, school safety and family and community engagement. 
  • Karl Nurse, a former City Council member and owner of Bay Tech Label in St. Petersburg. His focus areas are administrative efficiency, additional funding for early childhood education and increasing the number of counselors to help students not planning to attend college create a post-high school learning plan.

Edmond and Nurse are running against each other for District 7. Hine’s opponent for the district 1 seat, Stephanie Meyer, did not attend the event. 

After the candidates introduced themselves and shared their platforms and areas of interest, they participated in a question-and-answer session moderated by Matt Lettellier, advocacy manager at the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce

All three candidates spoke of their interest in taking more innovative approaches to education, whether that means looking into the idea of year-round school or allowing each school to have more input in their individual curriculums. Even the logistics of how high school students get to school could be improved, potentially through a partnership with PSTA. As it stands now, many students have to wake up before dawn to catch the school bus, which can impact learning.

Nurse, who said he worked on this idea as far back as 2005 as a PSTA citizen representative, said the school board needs to work together with other community agencies to leverage their impact. Plus, he added, “having children start school after the sun comes up would be a good thing.”

Edmond emphasized her platform of community partnerships as being key to positive educational outcomes, and that would include working with PSTA. She’s hopeful that local organizations can work with the school board to get around any roadblocks that have existed in the past.

“We all need to work together because at the end of the day, our goal is to make sure all children receive a high quality education.”

Echoing Nurse, Hine said she agreed that high school start times “have to be later” and said she’s committed to figuring out a solution. 

In terms of closing the achievement gap between Black and white students, Edmond stressed the importance of educating the whole child and looking for solutions to not just academic issues but also those surrounding teacher training and parental involvement. By taking a holistic approach, she said, there will be an opportunity to close the gap. 

Nurse pointed to early childhood education as a critical piece to bridging the divide between Black and white students and said the school board should partner with preschools to promote school readiness once a child hits kindergarten. And if students can’t do the work to advance to the next grade, they shouldn’t be promoted. 

Each candidate expressed support for having more student input on decisions being made by the school board in an effort to bring different perspectives to the table. Nurse and Hine said they’d also be interested in exploring ways to create connections between the school board, the city St. Petersburg and the business community, both through mentoring initiatives and through funding. 

Other upcoming events include a series of free online forums on issues affecting Florida voters that are being held in conjunction with nine other Tiger Bay clubs across the state. 

  • Friday, Oct. 23 at noon: a panel discussion on Amendment 2, which would establish a $15 statewide minimum wage
  • Thursday, Nov. 12 at noon: an analysis of the Florida election

For more information on how to watch, visit Suncoast Tiger Bay’s Facebook page or website

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