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District 2 Hernando School Board

One candidate points to her experience as a former board member. The other calls herself an advocate for parents and teachers.

By ROBERT KING

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Gail Coleman says she isn't campaigning for office so much as she is applying for a job, one she says is well-suited to her experiences as an educator.

Shannon Laviano, a first-time candidate, sees herself as a representative of parents and teachers who is able to listen and learn.

Both seek the District 2 seat on the Hernando County School Board in a non-partisan race.

They survived a four-way contest in the Sept. 5 primary where Coleman earned 49.1 percent of the vote and Laviano finished second with 18 percent. Because no one earned a majority, the runoff on Tuesday is needed.

Coleman, who held this seat from 1992 to 1996, counts that experience and her 12 years of teaching as qualifications that would allow her to hit the ground running.

Coleman would focus on the classroom. She supports a new initiative to help second-graders who have fallen behind in reading. She likes a new merit pay plan that offers teachers pay incentives for going above and beyond the call of duty. And she wants schools to have a "K through 16" focus to encourage even young children to think about their future career and education choices.

Laviano, who has a law degree and awaits the results of her Florida Bar exam, has two young children, including one who is a second-grader at Chocachatti Elementary School.

She wants to halt the commercialization of schools -- where businesses provide cash or equipment for marketing access to students. She wants better pay for teachers and more physical education for students. After some initial questions, she now says she supports the district's reading initiative for second-graders.

In the primary, Coleman won the recommendations of both Hernando County newspapers. Laviano was endorsed by the Hernando teachers union, and, in an unusual move, sitting School Board Chairman Jim Malcolm has thrown his support to Laviano.

Before the primary, Coleman made a stand on her belief that there should be equal funding between magnet schools and other schools. Chocachatti, the county's lone magnet, gets $110,000 in extra funding to run its arts and microsociety program. Laviano said she is not opposed to extra funding for special programs.

THE JOB

School Board members are elected to four-year terms. They must live in the district they represent, though all county voters can vote for them. Board members hire the superintendent, revise and approve the district's budget, set school property tax rates, make education policy and award construction contracts. The job pays an annual salary of $26,863.

* * *

GAIL COLEMAN, 45, of Spring Hill, held the District 2 School Board seat from 1992 to 1996. She works as a bereavement counselor. She was a teacher for 12 years, 10 of them in Hernando County. A native of Vermont, Coleman came here in 1982. She has a bachelor's degree in secondary education from the University of Vermont and a master's in guidance and counseling from the University of South Florida. She is divorced and has three sons. ASSETS: home, car, checking account. LIABILITIES: mortgage, credit card. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. E-MAIL: gcolema2@tampabay.rr.com

* * *

SHANNON LAVIANO, 36, of Spring Hill, is a law clerk and an aerobics instructor at the Hernando County YMCA and Gold's Gym. She has a law degree from Barry University in Orlando and a bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of South Florida. She is awaiting the results from the bar exam she took in July. A native Floridian, she moved here from Pinellas County in 1987. She has been heavily involved with Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, having served as Bible school director, women's club president and youth coordinator. She is divorced and has two children. ASSETS: car. LIABILITIES: student loans, car loan, bank loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: law office, YMCA jobs. E-MAIL: shannonlaviano@cs.com

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