Carol Kurdell attracts a crowd opposing her re-election bid for Hillsborough County School Board

There are actually four members of the school board up for re-election: Kurdell, Jack Lamb, Susan Valdes and Doretha Edgecomb, but none of those have attracted the opposition that Kurdell has, though none of the candidates said they took issue per se with her particular style on the board.

The aforementioned Philip Bishop currently teaches at the Honors College at USF and has taught at the College of Education at the University of Tampa since the fall of 2011. He grew up mainly in Jacksonville, but has lived in Tampa for the past nine years.

He said he was the first candidate to file in the race, before he knew Kurdell intended to run for re-election. The issue he's most interested in is school reform.

"While I realize that a local school board will be incapable of reversing 'No Child Left Behind,' I believe I would be able to mitigate some of its more long-lasting negative consequences," he told CL in an e-mail exchange. "Even though I do not have children, I believe that changes to education have an effect on us all as they are shaping the citizens of the future."

Carl Francis ''Captain Carl'' Kosierowski tells CL that he'd like to change the world, "one student at a time."

Kosierowski has been a school bus driver in the county for the past eight years. He's also worked for the past five years at the Brandon Family YMCA in Seffner, where he also serves as a Manager on Duty and an ASHI (American Safety and Health Institute) Instructor.

He says that school bus drivers in the eighth largest district in the country aren't being compensated fairly.

Inside the classrooms, he says he wants to know about the board's special needs educational programs for children, saying he felt broken-hearted recently when he listened to a mother of a special needs child "begging for her daughter's education."

He also is outraged that so few schools are aware of the benefits of recycling.

Robert McElheny is vice president at Gator Ford Truck Sales, where he's worked the last 11 years. He's been involved in auto sales for much of his professional life, but was a schoolteacher in Miami-Dade County for three years after he graduated from the University of Tennessee, where he received his degree in Education.

A resident of Lithia who grew up in Miami but has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1975, he said he originally wanted to run in his local District 4 seat currently represented by Stacy White. He says he believes White has been doing a good job and would be hard to defeat, so he turned his attentions to Kurdell's seat.

"I think I can bring something to the table, business-wise," McElheny says. He believes the current board has managed finances well, but he thinks there's still room for improvement. "For the dollars we collect, most of it ought to be going to the classroom, somehow."

Reflecting on the recent CAIR controversy, McElheny says he wasn't following the story that closely, but
did offer that he thinks there should be some sort of guidelines for teachers and administrators to follow "just to keep it under control," but he would not want to see a ban on guest speakers.

Bryan Vincent Williams
is currently a full-time student myself at the University of Tampa, and a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. He says he would bring a unique insight to help improve Hillsborough County's education system. Last summer he announced he would run for the Pasco County School Board. When contacted about what has happened since that time, he told CL that "I had been living in Hillsborough County for quite sometime before moving to Pasco briefly."

Michael Weston is a mathematics teacher at Freedom High School in Tampa.

His platform is to stop costly administrative growth, restore the role of parents, and insist on the transparency and accountability that he feels the current administration lacks.

He's also unhappy with recent changes the board has made regarding public comment, such as limiting the number of agenda items a speaker can address (from no limit), as well as moving agenda-specific comments to the beginning of the 3:00 p.m. meetings, "long before most people get off work." He elaborated by saying that he ends class at 3:15 p.m., and thus " am effectively locked out of ever speaking to an agenda item again."

He says as someone who regularly watches the public comment portion of board meetings, he didn't think there were any problems with speakers' comments, but says, "The Board is certainly made uncomfortable by much of the public comment. The content, while generally polite, [is] often critical of the Board's performance. "

And he says of three of the five board members who voted to support the changes — Kurdell, Candy Olson and Jack Lamb — "they need to be listening, not further isolating themselves from their constituents."

CL hopes to speak with current District 7 school board member Carol Kurdell as the election grows closer. The primary election is scheduled for this August.

  • Carol Kurdell

On Tuesday, Hillsborough County school board members agreed to hold a session on policies and guidelines regarding guest speakers in schools. Some members of the community have expressed indignation that a member of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) was allowed to speak at Steinbrenner High School last fall.

Reacting to the controversy, Phillip Bishop says the school board should maintain a consistent secular approach and either invite members of all faiths (including atheists) to speak, or not invite anyone.

Bishop is one of five Hillsborough county residents who have filed papers to run for the Hillsborough County school board's District 7 countywide seat this August, the seat held by incumbent Carol Kurdell for the past 20 years.

Because right now it's the most crowded of any race in Hillsborough County, CL reached out to learn a little more about the men (no women have filed for this seat yet) who want to serve on the board.

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