APPOINTED OR ELECTED?: School Board member Marge Whaley and Ryan O'Reilly differ on how superintendents should be hired.
By REBECCA CATALANELLO
Published October 26, 2004
Ryan O'Reilly knows he has a challenge ahead.
The 23-year-old Wesley Chapel father of one is making his first run for public office against Marge Whaley, 63, a person whose fingerprints on the Pasco County School District date back 28 years. So when the power went out during Hurricane Jeanne, O'Reilly said he knew how he needed to spend his time.
"Walking precincts," he said.
In her three terms representing School Board District 2 - the seat O'Reilly covets - Whaley has addressed hundreds of school employees as a motivational speaker. She successfully advocated a stricter student dress code, increased reading specialists to help students cope with the FCAT's requirements and now is pushing for Pasco's superintendent to become appointed.
In 16 years before that, Whaley worked as supervisor of health services and education for Pasco County schools. She was instrumental in establishing the county's Cyesis dropout prevention program for pregnant teens. Now she wants to establish a new alternative school for struggling students in the central part of the county.
O'Reilly arrived on the Pasco County political scene during the months before the March 9 Penny for Pasco sales tax election. A recent graduate of Saint Leo University, O'Reilly quickly aligned himself with local GOP leaders Bill and Ann Bunting in opposing the sales tax - a measure that Whaley supported.
Now O'Reilly hopes he'll grab more votes by opposing the effort to make Pasco's schools superintendent appointed. In the midst of a contentious school superintendent primary election, Whaley advocated getting the issue before voters on a 2006 ballot. Whaley thinks the top schools chief should be appointed by the five elected School Board members.
O'Reilly said voters seem responsive to his position: "They want to keep their right to vote," he said.
But Whaley, who remembers the past two times voters turned down an effort to change to an appointed superintendent, noted that regardless of how a School Board member feels about the issue, voters ultimately will be the ones to decide.
Whaley hopes in the next four years to help establish a new alternative school for troubled students in central Pasco as well as expand the International Baccalaureate high school program now based at Land O'Lakes High to other campuses in the county.
O'Reilly has said he wants to improve student nutrition and increase vocational school offerings in high schools.
Nov. 2 will be the second time the two battle it out for the District 2 School Board seat. In the Aug. 31 primary, they faced a third candidate. Whaley was the top vote getter with 38 percent, and O'Reilly and Patricia Murphy got 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
School Board members serve four-year terms. Elections are nonpartisan. Members set policy, approve the budget and vote on the superintendent's personnel and spending recommendations. They earn $32,906 a year.
RYAN O'REILLY, 23, is making his first bid for public office. O'Reilly is a 1999 graduate of Zephyrhills High School and received a degree in political science in 2003 from Saint Leo University. He was hired as a substitute teacher for the Pasco County School District on Jan. 28, according to public records. He has worked on and off for the past year for his parents' construction company, S&L Property Development, he said. He also said he worked as a contract employee for National Tax Assistance from 1999 to 2002 and for Mooring Tax Asset Group in 2003, coordinating teams of bidders during tax deed certification season. O'Reilly lives with his wife and their infant son in Wesley Chapel. ASSETS: Two cars. LIABILITIES: Loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: Substitute teaching, S&L Property Development and Mooring Tax Asset Group.
MARGE WHALEY, 63, has served three terms on the Pasco County School Board. She was first elected in 1992 after retiring from 16 years as supervisor of student services for the school district. Whaley was born in Indianapolis, moved to Pinellas County in 1973 and then to Pasco in 1977. She obtained a nursing degree from Indiana University in 1963 and a master's in education from the University of South Florida in 1980. Whaley was a school nurse in Indiana for six years before becoming a nurse at Mease Hospital in Dunedin. She was hired to oversee student services in Pasco County in 1976. Whaley lives in Land O'Lakes with her husband. She has two children and two stepchildren, all grown. ASSETS: Home, two cars, savings. LIABILITIES: None. SOURCE OF INCOME: Pasco County School Board salary and retirement funds.