Together, they defeated two-term incumbent Robert Wiggins in the Sept. 5 primary election.
Now, newcomers John Sweeney and Robert McDermott are vying to take his place as the Hernando County School Board's District 1 representative.
Sweeney, a small-business owner and former teacher, is running on a platform of promoting strong financial management - particularly in school construction - and restoring equity to the district's schools.
He favors a gradual rezoning of the district, arguing that the School Board has created a two-tiered system through its use of magnet schools, co-teaching and portable classrooms.
"What we did was drop the ball," Sweeney said, referring to the board's decision to spend construction funds on magnet schools. "We should have been working on planned neighborhood schools years ago."
McDermott, a teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School, has also criticized the district's use of magnet schools, saying it should either develop special programs for every school or create an open-enrollment program.
But much of his campaign has focused on finances. McDermott wants to lobby the state Legislature for a larger share of funding, boost teacher pay and aggressively eliminate wasteful spending or unnecessary programs.
"It all starts with pay and benefits," McDermott said. "We don't have the (state) funding to pay the teachers."
Both candidates have filed for bankruptcy in the past, although McDermott's was not pursued to closure. McDermott was also served last summer with an eviction order on the residence he listed in qualifying as a School Board candidate. He said the order came after a disagreement over the term of the lease, but court papers and the property's management company said it came after he fell behind on the rent.
School Board members
School Board members are elected on a nonpartisan basis to four-year terms. They are elected at large but must live in the district they represent (see map below). Board members hire the superintendent, approve the district budget, set school property tax rates, make education policy and award construction contracts. The board sets its salary each November. The current pay is $30,200 a year.
McDermott, 35, was raised in Nebraska and moved to Hernando County in 1990. He is an English and humanities teacher at Nature Coast Technical High School. He also works as a marketing consultant for Chick-fil-A and sells a topical pain reliever and skin products under the brand C5 Enterprises. He earned a bachelor's degree in criminology from Saint Leo University. He is divorced and has a daughter and a son. He is president of the First Hernando Republican Club and a member of the Masonic Lodge. Assets: Household goods, life insurance. Liabilities: Truck payment, credit cards, school loans. Sources of income: Salary, business.
Sweeney, 43, was born in Queens, N.Y., and raised on Long Island. He moved to Hernando County in 1988. He is a certified teacher and has taught English, psychology and special education in Hernando and Pasco schools and at Hernando Christian Academy. He is opening a wine and gift shop in Spring Hill. He previously worked as a law office administrator and investigator. He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from State University of New York at Stony Brook and a master's degree in educational leadership from Saint Leo University. He is married with three sons. Assets: Home, cars, savings. Liabilities: Mortgage and student loan. Source of income: Salary.
[Last modified November 3, 2006, 15:21:05]
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