Race for Orange County School Board chair heats up

Four candidates vying for top seat

By Vanessa Araiza - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - With the primary election just weeks away, the race for Orange County School Board chair is heating up, with four candidates vying for the top spot.

Bill Sublette has served in the role since 2010, and while he did file to run for Orange County mayor, he has since bowed out of that race.

Now, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, school board member Nancy Robbinson, assistant director at Orange Technical College Matthew Fitzpatrick and Oak Hill Elementary teacher Robert Allen Prater are running to fill the role.

Robbinson said this race is crucial.

"At the end of this election cycle of our eight school board members, four will be brand-new, at a minimum having never served before, and therefore I really believe that the new chairman needs to be able to have the experience of serving on the school board," Robbinson said. 

But her opponent, Prater, feels differently. 

He said while Robinnson is well-liked, she hasn't been in the classroom like he and Fitzpatrick have. 

“I’m the only teacher running for Orange County School Board Chair and have developed a lesson plan that deals with school safety, parent involvement, student discipline, teacher pay and, most of all, traditional vocational schools," Prater said.

The two may not have the name recognition, but they do have education experience on their side. 

Fitzpatrick wants to focus on teacher retention, student schedules and disciplinary actions. 

"The field of education has been bleeding teachers over the past several years. We are losing our baby boomers to early retirement because they are tired of all the micro-management and lockstep mandates," Fitzpatrick said. "Fifty percent of new teachers only last five years before they call it quits. The enrollment at education programs at colleges and universities are down 50% ... young people are choosing not to go into education. Even career educators are advising their own children to go into any field in college other than education. We cannot sustain these numbers much longer. We must change the way we are managing, leading and treating our teachers."  

Prater said school safety is at the forefront of his concerns. He said he wants to focus on surveillance cameras on school grounds. 

Jacobs released a statement saying, "The most important thing on my agenda is the education of our children -- I look forward to have the opportunity to work to make the education system the best in the country."

For everything you need to know about the upcoming election, click here to view the News 6 voter guide.

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