A number of Central Florida counties have school board seats up for grabs and voters can decide who will fill the role when they cast their ballots in the general elections.
School boards decide on how to spend district funds, what will be served in school cafeterias, and in light of the coronavirus pandemic, have a huge say in the health and safety guidelines implemented at local schools.
See who is running for a school board seat by county below and learn a little more about the candidates.
[2020 VOTER GUIDE: Everything you need to know ahead of the presidential election]
School Board District 4 Seat
In August, Lake County voters narrowed down the choice for the District 4 seat to two candidates. Mollie B. Cunningham and Betsy Farner made the cut during the primaries, leaving Lake County voters to decide who will assume the role. Voters will make the final decision on their ballots in November.
Read why Cunningham and Farner believe they’re fit for the seat below.
Mollie B. Cunningham
Cunningham has 35 years of experience working for the public school system in Lake County. During that time, she’s served on committees to hire a superintendent, revise the student code of conduct and select textbooks for students.
If elected, she plans to host quarterly town halls to gather input from members of the community and prioritize employee compensation.
Her other platform points include lobbying the legislature in Tallahassee, making sure schools are hiring the best and most qualified individuals and restructuring the school board’s budget.
Farner is a teacher with 37 years of experience, 33 of those spent in Lake County schools. She says that experience has helped her to fully understand the relationships between parents, teachers and students and she hopes to bring that knowledge to the school board.
Another focus of Farner’s is promoting vocational education for students who may not be interested in pursuing a four-year degree.
In order to achieve her goals, Farner hopes to foster more involvement from the community at large to support educators.
Get more information about voting in Lake County here.
School Board District 1 Seat
Candidates for the District 1 are now vying for the role in a runoff election.
Lori J. Conrad and Allison B. Campbell narrowed down the playing field in the primaries, but neither won more than 50% of the votes. Voters will make the final call in November. Learn more about the candidates that garnered the most support in the last election below.
Allison B. Campbell
Campbell hopes to use her extensive background in communications, bring a new vision and a new voice to the school board and better Marion County schools.
A native from southeast Tennessee, Campbell has built her own small public relations business while pursuing her a doctorate in strategic communications. She also serves as an adjunct professor for the College of Central Florida and Southeastern University while raising her three children alongside her husband. She says her current experience as a mother, a teacher, a student and a businesswoman will bring a well-rounded perspective to the board.
As part of her platform, she hopes to assist vulnerable populations, highlight the importance of learning different trades and shaping that education by learning styles and give students the opportunity to learn a variety of skills to make them more marketable for the future.
To learn more about Campbell, click here.
Lori J. Conrad
Conrad is a 25-year veteran teacher and a certified media specialist who lives in Ocala.
She serves in her community through the Humane Society, Boys and Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity. At the school level, she’s participated in literacy and textbook committees while serving planning and safety groups. Her role as a teacher has also given her the opportunity to help develop curriculum.
Touting her experience as an educator, Conrad says her hands-on point of view will help shape the board’s priorities and impact Marion County’s school system. She hopes to bring on a wide-range of initiatives and tackle issues such as distance learning and the digital gap, supporting the Safe School Initiative and reduce county base testing.
In 2012, she was recognized by the community and the Public Education Foundation as one of the Top Five Educators in Marion County through the Golden Apple Program. Conrad holds a primary education certification for kindergarten through third grade and is a certified elementary education teacher for first through sixth grades.
To learn more about Conrad, click here.
Get more information about voting in Marion County here.
Voters will see some familiar names for the District 4 and District 5 school board races. As no candidates won more than 50% of the votes during the primaries, voters will once again cast their ballots for Orange County’s District 4 and District 5 seats. This time, voters will only pick between two candidates.
See who is running for each seat below.
School Board District 4 Seat
Brown is a Navy veteran and a father of three, with extensive experience in public health. After working as public health at analyst at the federal level, he became an Orange County Public Schools administrator while also doubling as a college professor.
The Orlando native has been married to his wife, an OCPS teacher, for 24 years. Prince says his experience as a loving husband to an educator and becoming an educator himself has helped shaped his perspective and inspired him to run for a school board seat.
In his platform, he outlines ways to support teachers which includes creating more efficient meetings that don’t cut into a teacher’s planning periods or lunch breaks and provide a fair platform for pay negotiations. He also wants to spearhead more collaboration with local businesses and entrepreneurs to create alternative avenues of success for high school graduates and establish apprenticeship positions and marketable certifications for students.
To learn more about Prince and his platform, click here.
Gould has held the District 4 school board seat for the past eight years and is running for re-election. She has lived in Orange County since 1990, where she raised two sons alongside her husband.
During her tenure as a school board member, she’s also assumed the role of vice-chair spearheading the accelerated expansion of new schools to keep up with the growing west Orange County population. Passionate about creating pathways to careers for all children, she’s directed a collaborative opportunity with Special Hearts Farm creating a program for students who are differently-abled to train and continue performing meaningful jobs once they age out of public school. She is also currently organizing an initiative to provide a polytechnic option for sixth through twelfth grade that would enhance experiential learning environments.
Gould hopes to continue to expand on these initiatives and provide more career pathway options for students by extending her time on the school board.
To learn more about Gould and her platform, click here.
School Board District 5 Seat
Michael “Mike” Scott
Scott is an Air Force veteran who was born and raised in Orlando. Scott points to his community engagement and education-initiatives as to why he’s fit for the District 5 school board seat.
If elected, Scott hopes to increase the school board’s engagement with students, saying it will have insurmountable benefits that he has seen firsthand. Scott spearheaded the implementation of a mentorship program with the Public Defender’s Office Juvenile Division, helping high-risk or repeat offending students stick to their education and utilize community resources for academic success. According to Scott’s website, he has partnered with multiple organizations to create a number of personal development and educational programs that serve youth and their families for more than 15 years.
He says he hopes to continue to be of public service on the school board to create more community-based initiatives that will create more vocational opportunities for students. Outlined in his platform, Scott wants to promote purposed changes to the advisory committees and families before they happen and keep families more informed by hosting more informational meetings at schools.
To learn more about Scott, click here.
Felder is a life-long Orlando resident with nearly 40 years of experience in education.
Felder hopes to bring her experience and pure intentions to advocate for the needs of students, parents, teachers, staff and the overall community. She hopes to provide more training for innovative learning that keeps special education and English-learning students in mind. Outlined in her platform, Felder hopes to introduce vocational education to bring a variety of ways for students to reach academic success while encouraging creativity in instruction and making it an accepted aspect of teacher evaluation.
Felder boasts many accomplishments as an educator including an invitation to do research as a Fulbright-Hays Scholar on the art and architecture of India and served as an educational facilitator to South Africa to assist in rebuilding the educational communities after the election of Nelson Mandela.
Felder hopes to bring her wide array of experience to the Orange County School Board and serve the overall community.
To learn more about Felder, click here.
Get more information about voting in Orange County here.
School Board District 2 Seat
Osceola County voters will get to make the final call in a run-off race for school board. Julius Melendez and Kerly Santos will once again face off on local ballots as neither candidate won more than 50% of the votes during the primaries. Learn more about their platforms for school board below.
Melendez is hoping to return to the Osceola County School Board after furthering his education in computer programming.
Melendez previously served as vice-chair, stepping away after the end of his term to earn his master’s degree in business administration and a second bachelor’s degree in information technology.
The combat veteran is returning to public service to address active shooter training in schools, saying there’s a more efficient way to keep students safe without drills that have proven to be anxiety and stress-inducing. He also wants to create better policies and procedures in coordination with law enforcement and school administrators to ensure children aren’t facing unnecessary and harsh punishments.
To learn more about Melendez and why he wants to serve again on the school board, click here.
Santos describes herself as a Latina mom with a multicultural heart, fighting for inclusion and equity for every community.
Santos boasts an extensive resume filled with community engagement from volunteering for teacher’s appreciation week to organizing a supply donation drive after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. She says she’s been involved in nearly all aspects a parent could be when it comes to schools, saying it has brought her perspective on the resources and support that teachers need to help students succeed.
To learn more about Santos and her platform, click here.
Get more information about voting in Osceola County here.
School Board District 2 Seat
People will once again select who they believe is fit to fill the District 2 school board seat. They will have to select between incumbent Ida Duncan Wright and community member Anita Burnette. Read more about them below.
Burnette is a Mainland High School graduate and UCF alumna and said she was asked by educators to run for school board. She said she’s been involved in the school district for the past 20 years.
Burnette said she wants to restore accountability in the school leaders and put children first. The UCF grad said she wants to close the minority achievement gap and use her expertise running a multi-million dollar budget to best allocate funds for students and schools.
With three decades of service at Halifax Medical Center, she says another goal is to keep students and staff safe.
Learn more about Burnette’s platform by clicking here.
Ida Duncan Wright
Wright is currently the chairman of the Volusia School Board and incumbent of this race.
She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Stetson University.
Wright said she wants to be the advocate for families and students who have concerns with the district and will continue to serve her mission to ensure every student receives a quality education.
If elected for another term, she hopes to organize more advocacy meetings with lawmakers in Tallahassee rallying for more teacher pay. She’s also outlined to bring more digital content and more staff training for mental health signs and symptoms. She’s also outlined how she plans to support the transition of children entering ESE pre-kindergarten classes and how she plans to continue bettering the county’s graduation rate.
Read more about Wright’s platform by clicking here.
Get more information about voting in Volusia County here.
Election Day is Nov. 3.