TAMPA — Some of the same tough issues facing the Hillsborough County School Board came up at Wednesday night’s election forum for six candidates vying for the District 6 seat.
Candidates tried to distinguish themselves from their opponents on how they would deal with issues in the the district’s transportation department as well as how their relationship would be with schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.
The school board recently hired a consultant to help create a plan to replace aging buses and conduct a review of district transportation. Simultaneously, the district is investigating concerns raised by some transportation employees, particularly the handling of medically fragile students.
Alison Fernandez, a Temple Terrace City Councilwoman, said keeping the transportation situation in the public eye is important and that the school board needs to make sure drivers are paid enough.
Randy Toler, a Green Party founder, and Ralph Underwood both said they would call for more training for drivers who transport students with disabilities.
April Griffin, who currently serves in the District 6 seat, frequently butts heads with the superintendent. She gave Elia the lowest possible scores on her annual evaluation last September.
Toler said one of the reasons he is running for the seat is to restore “harmony” on the board.
Paula Meckley, a mother of four children who has been active in parent groups at their schools, said she has a track record of conducting her relationships with “respect and humility.”
“My husband and I don’t always agree on how to raise our children, but we’re still married,” she said.
Asher Edelson, a Hillsborough Community College student, said his relationship with Elia would be good as long as she supports his biggest priority: healthier school lunches.
Brandon attorney and parent Dipa Shah said she doesn’t know Elia yet so their relationship would be “a fresh start.”
Griffin originally said she would not seek another term on the board but recently changed her mind and said she would seek re-election. She attended Wednesday night’s forum and said she had planned to participate but did not after another candidate pointed out she hasn’t filed to run with the Supervisor of Elections Office. Griffin said she plans to file soon.
Hosted by the Temple Terrace Area Democrats at the Beef O’Brady’s restaurant on North 56th Street, the event was set up in a question-and-answer format, with the WMNF radio station’s Janelle Irwin moderating. Candidates were given one minute to answer each question.