BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County School Board Vice Chairman Dianne Bonfield’s decision not to seek reelection this year leaves two candidates for her District 3 seat: local businesswoman Beth Narverud and retired businessman Jay Rowden.
Narverud, former executive director of the Hernando County Education Foundation who owns Domino’s Pizza franchises in Hernando and Pasco counties, and Rowden, a retired businessman and Vietnam veteran married to Hernando Commissioner Diane Rowden, have combined to raise more than $30,000, outpacing school board candidates in other races.
Hernando Elections records showed that Narverud had raised just over $14,750 this week, just under Rowden’s $16,325. School board races are non-partisan and school board members serve four-year terms. Elections are Aug. 26.
Narverud, 50, has garnered endorsements from notables such as state Sen. Wilton Simpson, state Rep. Jimmie Smith, Hernando Clerk of Courts Don Barbee and former Hernando Schools Superintendent Bryan Blavatt, among others. She was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco & Hernando Counties.
Rowden, 70, has been endorsed by Bonfield, the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, and his wife, among others.
Narverud and Rowden each responded to five questions submitted to school board candidates by Hernando Today.
1. Why are you running for office and what differentiates you from your opponent?
Narverud: During my time working with the Education Foundation, I discovered my passion to improve the education system in Hernando County. One important distinction between myself and my opponent is that I have dedicated many years to Hernando County Schools through my work with the Hernando County Education Foundation. I believe the most important distinction is that I am a parent of three children currently enrolled in Hernando County public schools.
Rowden: My platform is: Increase funding for schools. I have vastly more experience on several different levels. I have experience taking a business from an idea to a global enterprise. I have worked with fortune 500 companies and countless foreign countries. I have 25 years of working with government officials at the highest level from the school districts to Washington, D.C.
2. What is the biggest issue facing the school district and what would you do to address it?
Narverud: The biggest issue is providing the best possible education for our students. This includes increasing access to technology. My initial focus will be on fiscal responsibility and business-sensible budgeting that puts our students first. We should work with our Education Foundation and other community organizations to help build a financial bridge with business, both local and major markets, as well as within our local private sector.
Rowden: I believe that Hernando County schools are seriously underfunded. I will work to change that by working with legislators in Florida and Washington to acquire increased funding for the district. (I will) search out grants from both private and public sources. I will work with staff and the board to come up with innovative ways to get the maximum out of the existing funding.
3. Where do you stand on Penny for Projects, the 1 cent sales tax increase being proposed by the county and school district?
Narverud: I support the Penny for Projects initiative. Our schools are in desperate need of a technology upgrade, so our students can compete with other states and other nations. This money will also be used to repair and upgrade our older schools and classrooms.
Rowden: I support the Penny For Projects.
4. With a tight budget and a list of needed capital improvement projects and technological upgrades should the school board consider raising the property tax rate? Why or why not?
Narverud: Raising taxes on middle class families and seniors should always be a last resort. We are seeing month over month increases in property values. Gov. Scott also approved $50 million in PECO Funding where Hernando County’s share will be around $437,000. Additionally, during this last legislative session, our state legislature closed a loophole allowing Hernando County to receive more than 2 million dollars a year in sparsity funding. Taking into account the current trend of rising property values, adding the sparsity funding, and then the return of PECO funds, I am hopeful that this problem will resolve itself, and we will not need to increase property taxes.
Rowden: I would not consider raising property taxes unless the health safety and welfare of our children was in jeopardy and all other sources of revenue had been exhausted.
5. The FCAT will not be used to test students this year, but specifics of a test to replace it are not yet available. What are your thoughts on the situation?
Narverud: The biggest concern I have at this point is whether or not our teachers will have the tools and training needed to align their English, language arts, writing and mathematics classroom instruction with the Florida Standards Assessments tests. With all of these changes, I imagine our school administration is currently breathing a sigh of relief as only a few assessment tests will change this school year. (That will allow them) to implement these changes and give them time to prepare for the changes on the visible horizon.
Rowden: I am against Common Core and FCAT, because they are used as a punishment not as an evaluation tool. I feel our local staff is more than capable to determine what is best for our children. I don’t think any child dreams to grow up to be a test taker.