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Thursday, Jul 27, 2017

Kurdell for School Board

The only Hillsborough County School Board race that was not decided in the August primary was in District 7, an at-large seat. Incumbent Carol Kurdell faced five candidates. Kurdell took 36 percent of the vote and now faces Terry Kemple, who finished second with 19 percent of the vote. Election Day is Nov. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 27. Kemple talks about wanting to improve education outcomes and criticizes the board for being too quick to side with School Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. But he has primarily attacked the school system for allowing a representative of the Council of American-Islamic Relations to speak before a high school class last year. Kemple led an anti-CAIR march last week, warns of a Muslim plot to impose Sharia law here and of the Jihadist threat.
Americans do need to be on guard against Islamic zealots — here and abroad — who disdain American freedoms. But there is no evidence that the local CAIR group, which stresses peace and tolerance, is involved with anything sinister or that anything inappropriate was said during that much-vilified classroom discussion nine months ago. The talk, part of a religious studies effort, was to high school students. This was hardly a secret scheme to indoctrinate students. In contrast, Kurdell listens to parents, teachers, students and administrators when exploring issues. She is interested in developing sensible solutions, not in stirring emotions. Kurdell is seeking her sixth term, which we do find excessive. Yet she has displayed energy and diligence during a period of challenging transition for the district, which is implementing the Gates Foundation teacher-evaluation system and a similar program to improve principals. She clearly is not clinging to the status quo. She stresses the ultimate purpose of the changes must be "student achievement, which can get lost sometimes." She takes justified pride in how over the years she has mastered budget matters. She is proud that the board has built a contingency fund of nearly $100 million. The reserve earns the district an AAA bond rating, which saves it millions of dollars a year on bond issues. Kurdell supports school accountability, but she is right that the state overemphasizes testing and needs to collaborate more effectively with local districts. Kurdell acknowledges the need for schools to be cautious with guest speakers, ensuring that all sides and religions are adequately represented. But she also recognizes that this is hardly an education crisis, which is underscored by the fact that critics remain focused on an incident that occurred nine months ago. Kemple may be sincere, but his approach is unnecessarily divisive. Kurdell approaches her school board responsibilities with calm diligence. For Hillsborough County School Board, District 7, The Tampa Tribune endorses Carol Kurdell.
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