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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Pinellas teachers select new union leader

CLEARWATER — After seven years with former teacher Kim Black at the helm, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association has a new president and vice president.

Mike Gandolfo, a history teacher at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo, beat out three other longtime Pinellas teachers to become the organization’s new president Thursday with 72 percent of members’ votes. Susan Spaulding, a third-grade teacher at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo, was elected vice president. More than 1,500 of the approximately 4,000 eligible union members submitted votes to their school union representative Wednesday.

“I feel anxious and ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” Gandolfo said in an email.

Term limits prevented Black from running for re-election. Gandolfo and Spaulding can serve up to two three-year terms. Black will retain her position until mid-June, when Gandolfo, 52, takes over.

A first-generation Italian-American raised in New York, Gandolfo graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in business management and spent almost 18 years as the owner and operator of a restaurant before going into teaching. Since earning a master’s degree in history and being hired by the school district in 2004, Gandolfo has worked as an eighth-grade American History teacher. He also is co-chairman of the teachers association’s human civil rights committee, sits on the union’s executive board and government relations committee, and represents the association at the Central Labor Council.

Teachers face a number of challenges in the coming years, and the “flawed” teacher evaluation system, excessive student testing and legislators’ siphoning of money from education are just a few of the issues that will be met head-on, Gandolfo said.

“There are dozens of issues that lack common sense, and we will not dodge a single challenge,” Gandolfo said in an email. “I want to speak to the membership and find out how best to address their needs. I want every member to feel that they are an important part of a great organization.”

Gandolfo beat out union vice president of seven years Richard Wisemiller, a science teacher at Tarpon Springs Middle School, who received 13 percent of votes. Gibbs High School social studies teacher Rick Bose received 8 percent, and Don Manly, a math teacher at Richard L. Sanders School, drew 6 percent.

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