Two candidates eye Hillsborough schools seat
TAMPA - Two candidates have their eye on the Hillsborough County school board seat that incumbent Stacy White is planning to give up. White, the District 4 board member who has been in office since 2010, has indicated he likely will run for county commission next year. Jereme Monette, who has worked for the school district since 2005, is one candidate who has filed for the office, which represents much of eastern Hillsborough County. Melissa Snively, a State Farm insurance agent and former past chair of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, is the other. Monette is a 32-year-old father of two who currently works for the school district under its Empowering Effective Teachers program. He spends part of his time evaluating teachers and part of it mentoring new instructors.He has taught at Plant City High and Hillsborough High and spends a lot of his time now at Brandon High working with teachers there. “I think the school board can benefit from someone with practical experience,” Monette said. “Education has always been a passion for me. It’s been a calling.” The Largo High graduate has seen firsthand some of the concerns about the Empowering Effective Teachers system. He says the evaluation process itself is not teacher friendly, but that there are some positive aspects of it, such as the mentoring program for new teachers. “Any time you try to change the way you go about evaluating teachers, there is going to be a lot of noise about it,” Monette said. “Scrapping it isn’t an option at this point. We can’t blow the whole thing up and start over. But it definitely needs some tweaking.” What also needs tweaking, the University of South Florida graduate said, is the safety and security of the county’s elementary schools. That’s been an issue in the county since the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 students and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary. “We don’t do anything more important than keep our children safe,” Monette said. “It’s not a question of if we do it, it’s how we do it.” Snively, a 42-year-old mother of four, agrees. She said if elementary school principals don’t feel safe, the district has an obligation to provide security for them with armed law enforcement. That’s already done at the middle school and high school level. What Snively does not want to see, however, is teachers or principals packing heat. “If we’re trying to lead by example, that’s not in line with that particular principle,” she said. “What message are we sending to our students with that?” With her business background, Snively said that financial accountability is also important to her. She also wants to figure out how to get parents more involved in the education of their children. “We need more parent engagement in our school system and more involvement,” Snively said. “That’s a challenge.” With one child in preschool, two in elementary school and one in middle school, the Polk County native said her background would give her a special insight on the board. “I think being a parent gives me firsthand experience,” she said. The District 4 seat is one of three school board positions up for election next year. The others are District 2, the South Tampa seat currently held by Candy Olson, and District 6, the countywide seat occupied by April Griffin. Griffin also plans to run for the county commission next year. Michael Weston, a Freedom High math teacher, is the only candidate who has filed for Olson’s seat so far. School board races are nonpartisan. Members earn nearly $41,000 annually.