Ken Allen vs. April Griffin

Hillsborough County School Board District 6

As a reporter who used to cover twice-monthly school board meetings, I know first-hand how boring they can be. After a few hours of discussion over intergovernmental agreements and HVAC maintenance contracts, one longs for something (anything!) to break up the monotony. But mind-numbing meetings aside, school boards are quite possibly the most important local institutions. In Hillsborough County, the school district is the largest employer, overseeing $1.1 billion of taxpayer money every year to provide children with the tools of modern-day success. Which is why it's no wonder that this year's nonpartisan race between Ken Allen and April Griffin has been one of the more contested elections in the county.

Even before the primary election, Allen and Griffin defined their race as one between an insider (Allen) and an outsider (Griffin).

Allen has spent 35 years in the district as a teacher, principal, director of school boundaries and pupil assignment and, most recently, director of adult and community education. He shows a clear grasp of the issues and terminology of the school system. Three issues define his candidacy: school safety (he has already spoken to Sheriff David Gee about convening a blue-ribbon panel to study the issue); reducing dropouts and preventing students from "going through school anonymous;" and finding ways to attract and retain teachers (including a promising teacher mentoring program).

Griffin, on the other hand, has spent months distancing herself from the district, which she criticizes as "one of the last good ol' boy networks we have in Hillsborough County." Griffin takes shots at Allen often — a bit of a turn-off — but she insists it is not him she is running against, but the "whole establishment." And in the next breath she says, "But I can get along."

While Allen has talked passionately about "mid-kids" — those achievers who don't drop out but do not choose college — Griffin gave the issue play long before Allen in the first debates.

My choice: Allen and Griffin are both well-qualified candidates who I truly feel have students' best interests at heart. On the issues, they are nearly identical. Allen strikes me as a sincere administrator and good steward of our taxpayer money. Griffin is the passionate mother who would fight for your children as if they were her own. But in these tight races, where both candidates would do a great job, I tend to root for the troublemaker. Chalk it up to my anarchist tendencies, but I want an elected official who is going to cause a ruckus over every agenda item. I want someone who will question long-held beliefs and has the capacity to mobilize carloads of parents to meetings and events. I want someone to make school board meetings fun again. I want April Griffin.

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Elections 2006

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