Creative Loafing Tampa Bay’s 2020 recommendations for Hillsborough County School Board

We're all in for Washington, Vaughn, Combs and Gray.

click to enlarge Creative Loafing Tampa Bay’s 2020 recommendations for Hillsborough County School Board
Photo via Henry "Shake" Washington/Facebook

District 1: Nadia Combs

Nadia Combs is a former middle school teacher and private tutor who is a strong advocate for improving the county’s support system for students and school staff, ensuring recent budget cuts don’t come from the bottom—where teachers (and their students) would have the most to lose—and meaningfully addressing social inequality and inequity in District 1 schools. Her opponent, incumbent Steve Cona, is supportive of privatization, has fallen out of favor among local teacher and labor unions, and includes on his platform a desire to make the public schools the “biggest economic development engine” in the county—a cringe-worthy goal, if we ever saw one. We recommend voting for Nadia Combs for the Hillsborough County School Board.

District 3: Jessica Vaughn

Substitute teacher and community organizer Jessica Vaughn is a strong advocate for students, parents, and school staff members as a candidate who is pushing for greater transparency on the county school board, strengthening support systems for teachers, advocating for fiscal responsibility, and reforming school discipline policies to embody restorative justice principles. Vaughn’s grassroots campaign stands in stark contrast to that of her opponent, Mitch Thrower, who’s come under fire for accepting campaign donations from Republican PACs with ties to the private prison industry. Although Thrower has publicly advocated for dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, he’s failed to answer for his problematic campaign funding, and as someone who’s running on a platform of fiscal responsibility—that’s hardly encouraging. We recommend voting for Jessica Vaughn for the Hillsborough County School Board.

District 5: Henry "Shake" Washington

Henry “Shake” Washington is a community leader with over 42 years of experience working within the Hillsborough County public school system as an educator, principal, coach, and mentor. He strongly supports improving communication and collaboration between the board, schools, and the larger community. Shamburger, the incumbent, has been a champion for addressing issues of educational equity in the district, and has stepped up in recent months as a vocal advocate for ensuring the safety of staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, critics of Shamburger cite concerns about transparency, an unclear position on for-profit charters, and a history of launching personal attacks against education advocates who air concerns about her leadership. In this tight race, we recommend voting for Henry “Shake” Washington to bring new leadership to the board.

District 7: Lynn Gray

Current school board member, Lynn Gray, can offer steadfast leadership and initiative for this countywide seat as the county school system continues to face challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gray is an experienced educator of 26+ years who has advocated for student leadership programs, closing the achievement gap, expanding the instruction of African American history, and increasing educational and emotional support for students in the county’s underperforming schools. Opponent Sally Harris—owner of Circle C Ranch Academy and former School Board Member—has offered little over the course of her campaign to argue strongly in her favor to replace current leadership. She’s also allegedly used “dog whistles” in response to questions about school discipline policies. We recommend reelecting Lynn Gray for the countywide District 7 seat.

See all of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay’s 2020 recommendations here.

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About The Author

McKenna Schueler

McKenna Schueler is a freelance journalist based in Tampa, Florida. She regularly writes about labor, politics, policing, and behavioral health. You can find her on Twitter at @SheCarriesOn and send news tips to [email protected].

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