The race to replace retiring School Board member Carolyn Bricklemyer pits longtime educator Ken Allen against civic activist April Griffin.
Allen, who retires as the district's director of adult and community education in November, led Griffin in a four-way primary in which neither garnered a majority. Now, September's two top vote getters seek to distinguish themselves from one another as they head into the nonpartisan general election.
Allen stresses his insider knowledge of the district as his advantage.
"I believe that my experience working in the system has helped me a great deal in understanding how the system works, where the best avenues are to go for change that needs to be made," he says.
Griffin, by contrast, says she has no ties to the school district other than her two sons, who attend magnet schools. That gives her an independence that a 35-year school employee does not have, she contends.
"If they want change, real change, someone who will ask hard questions and look at things objectively and not just be a rubber stamp, then I'm their candidate," Griffin says.
Though a system veteran, Allen rejects the notion that he had his chance to implement reform. His jobs, starting from teacher, gave him opportunities to push for small changes in specific areas, but he has not been in a position to influence policy.
Now he has some ideas he'd like to see put in place, such as better mentoring for new teachers, a broader curriculum that shows students how to apply the theories they learn, and an improved school choice program. The district also needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to dealing with the public, he says.
"There is a perception that the district doesn't want parents involved when it comes to making decisions," he says. "That whole culture needs to be changed."
Griffin has some different priorities. First, she'd like to see the School Board put more effort into helping students who are not headed to college find viable careers. She has called for more professional operation of business-oriented departments, such as facilities and transportation.
She also wants the board to do more to value its noninstructional staff, which has reached an impasse over its contract terms and has seen its morale drop.
"We're paying our workers, who have an important role in our children's lives, terrible wages and making them feel they're not an important part in the process," says Griffin, whose grandmother worked in a high school cafeteria for 30 years.
Kenneth R. Allen
Allen, 57, is director of adult and community education for the Hillsborough County School District. He has been a district-level administrator, school principal and teacher. He is retiring in November. A Tampa native, Allen, who lives near Hyde Park, has not sought elected office before. He is past president of the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, a member of the Florida Association of School Administrators and a volunteer with Boy Scouts of America. Allen also is an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of South Florida, and a doctorate in education from the University of Sarasota. He is married and has two adult sons. Assets: Home, investments, savings. Liabilities: Student loan, auto loan, private debt. Source of income: Salary. Web site: www.voteforkenallen.com.
Griffin, 37 , is a former business owner who is now a "full-time candidate" for the School Board. She has not sought elected office before. Griffin, a Tampa native, is a member and past chairwoman of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Cable Advisory Board, is a member and co-founder of the Henry and Ola Neighborhood Association, and belongs to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. She has worked for U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, state Rep. Bob Henriquez, PACE Center for Girls and the school district public information office. Griffin is married and has two sons in public magnet schools. She is pursuing a degree in mass communications from Hillsborough Community College. Assets: Home. Liabilities: Mortgage, auto loans, credit cards. Source of income: Husband's income. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: www.voteapril.com.
School Board member, District 6
The seven School Board members set policy for the nation's ninth-largest school system, with more than 200 schools and 190,000 students. School Board races are nonpartisan, and members serve four-year terms. Five School Board members run in districts, with Districts 6 and 7 elected countywide. The annual budget totals $2.6-billion. The job has an annual salary of $39,520.
[Last modified November 3, 2006, 14:59:12]
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