St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies


RAISING THE GRADE: Pat Fagan, longtime parks director, and Linda Prescott, veteran teacher, both have detailed ideas about improving education.

Times Staff Writer
Published October 26, 2004

The county's longtime parks director and a veteran teacher will square off in the nonpartisan runoff to replace retiring Hernando County School Board member Gail David.

Pat Fagan and Linda Prescott were the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 31 primary. In the months preceding the general election, the candidates have worked to distinguish their goals for the county's education system.

It isn't new terrority for Fagan, who announced his candidacy for the District 2 seat more than two years ago.

Since then, the Hernando County parks and recreation director has quietly attended School Board meetings and studied the district's budget.

His early agenda included the need to raise teacher salaries, place greater emphasis on the "basics," increase science education in elementary schools and provide more magnet schools.

Over time, Fagan has added more issues to his platform. With the school district facing tremendous growth and overcrowding of schools, Fagan is pushing for the system to standardize new school construction to save on design costs.

He also thinks the mediocre grades given to Hernando middle schools by the state grading system are a sign that new initiatives are needed to boost math and reading skills.

"We need to spend whatever money is necessary to prepare our kids for a better future," he said.

Fagan dismissed the notion that he might have a conflict of interest if a situation arises where his county bosses want an outcome on the School Board that he does not feel represents the public interest.

He noted that during the time he has overseen the county's many parks and government buildings, he also managed the county fair, spent a term on the Brooksville City Council and served on the advisory committee for Chocachatti Elementary School, where his 9-year-old twin daughters attend.

"I'm going to vote my own convictions," Fagan said.

The soft-spoken, friendly man said he is uniquely positioned for another campaign goal: fostering a closer working relationship between the School Board and county in planning for growth.

Coordinating more communication between the two boards also is one of Prescott's key goals.

It would be a slightly different strategy for the educator who moved to Hernando Beach four years ago. A zealous environmentalist, she has twice sued the county over development issues, including a fight to prevent Wal-Mart from expanding in the county.

She later served on the committees that reviewed the county's comprehensive plan and created rules for big-box retail stores.

But the warm and composed Prescott is most at home in the classroom. The University of Florida graduate has spent the last 35 years teaching accounting, business and computers at nearly every education level, from junior high to college.

Having worked in schools in six states, Prescott said she has a more diverse scope of education perspectives to draw from than her opponent. Fagan was a teacher and coach in Hernando schools for seven years before joining the county.

"I thought perhaps someone from the outside who had experience in different states could be valuable (on the School Board)," Prescott said.

Prescott, now an instructor at the Ybor City campus of Hillsborough Community College, wants to see the district improve student participation in vocational, advanced placement and dual-enrollment programs.

She suggests the district could offer more competitive teacher salaries by paying educators to teach in before- and after-school programs designed to improve students' reading skills.

The district also needs to consider implementing a parent-child home program, where volunteers visit homes to help low-income parents learn how to teach their children, she said.

"There are children out there who don't have books and educational toys, and when they do come to school they're already behind," she said.

- COLLEEN JENKINS, Times staff writer


CHARLES "PAT" FAGAN , 55, of Spring Hill is a Brooksville native who has worked as Hernando County parks and recreation director since 1978. Before joining the county government, Fagan was a teacher and coach in the Hernando school district for seven years. He also served one term on the Brooksville City Council during the 1980s, including one year as mayor. Fagan is a member of the Chocachatti School Advisory Council and the Berkeley Manor Property Owners Association. He also belongs to the National Recreation and Park Association and the Florida Recreation and Park Association. Fagan has a bachelor's degree from Saint Leo College. He is married and has two daughters who go to Chocachatti Elementary School and two adult sons from a previous marriage. ASSETS: home, savings, investments. LIABILITIES: mortgage, vehicle lease, credit cards. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. E-MAIL:

LINDA K. PRESCOTT , 56, of Hernando Beach was born in New Orleans and moved to Hernando County in 2000. An instructor at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Prescott has taught school and been a member of teacher unions for more than 30 years. She is president of Coalition for Anti-Urban Sprawl and the Environment, and served for two years as secretary of the Hernando Beach South Property Owners Association. She has not run for public office before. Prescott has a master's degree in business education from Middle Tennessee State University and has worked toward a doctorate in business and information systems, and education, from Utah State University. She is married and has no children. ASSETS: home, investments. LIABILITIES: mortgage, car loan, credit cards. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, investment income. E-MAIL:


School Board members are elected on a nonpartisan basis to four-year terms. They must live in the district they represent, although all county voters can vote for them. The board sets its own salary each November. The current pay is $29,208 a year.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.