TAMPA – School board member April Griffin, who entered then exited the race for an open seat on the Hillsborough County Commission earlier this year, has decided against seeking re-election to a third school board term, too.
Griffin will focus on “private endeavors,” she said, including her family and college degrees, but added that politics may still be in her future.
Elected to the nonpartisan board in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, Griffin said she will finish out her current term.
“I will be fully engaged and active during the job for the next year,” she said. “We’ve still got a lot of things to accomplish. I’m looking forward to working hard to continue to bring some autonomy to the board.”
Griffin said she hopes to spend more time with her husband and two sons. Additionally, Griffin, who just ended one year as chairwoman of the board, is finishing up a bachelor’s degree in organizational studies at Eckerd College. She hopes to pursue a graduate degree at the University of South Florida.
Highlights of Griffin’s years on the board include working through times of financial crisis in 2007.
“I was the board member that said we have to keep in mind that we are the largest employer in this community. If we start laying people off, this community is going to suffer,” Griffin said.
“We made it through those times in much better shape than a lot of our counterparts throughout the state and the rest of the nation. I’m proud we’ve been able to maintain such a high standard of education for our kids.”
Other points of pride for Griffin were watching the district’s career and technical programs grow and being a part of the process of hiring a new school board attorney.
During her second term, Griffin has tangled with appointed schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, giving Elia the lowest possible scores in the superintendent’s recent annual evaluation.
She faulted Elia in areas including leadership, including how she handled the deaths of two special-needs students last school year and a lack of regard for low morale among school district employees.
“I needed to be honest,” Griffin wrote in two pages of comments. “Last year was a bad year for our district.”
Board member Susan Valdes also gave Elia the lowest possible scores but the five other board members rated the superintendent satisfactory or better.
Griffin filed to run as a Democrat for the District 7 Hillsborough County commission seat in February but is dropping out of that race. She had not formally withdrawn from the contest by last week, saying she might want to direct the $19,860 she had raised in that campaign toward the school board race, instead.
There are nine candidates vying for Griffin’s spot on the school board.
While she’s not seeking re-election, this may not be the end of her political career.
“I love public service,” she said. “I’m not going to say I’m not going to run for office at some point in the future.”