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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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School Board chair: End trips to Astro Skate after anti-Hillary Clinton ad

Pinellas County School Board chairwoman Rene Flowers has asked the school district to remove Astro Skate, a Pinellas Park skating rink, from its list of activities after the rink posted a controversial flier that showed a photo of Hillary Clinton covered by a red "no" sign.

Astro Skate advertised a "Low dough all-night skate" for President's Day weekend. Along with the crossed-out photo of Clinton, it showed an image of President Donald Trump, thumbs up, and cartoon depictions of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Flowers wrote to the district's associate superintendent of operational services, Clint Herbic, and school superintendent Mike Grego to remove Astro Skate from the district's list of venues for school activities. She asked for the removal to go before the full board for a vote at a future meeting.

"After all, tax dollars that fund the school system come from all parties, all economic bases, all people," she wrote. "How can we teach inclusivity but support exclusivity?"

Astro Skate has since removed the flier and posted an apology to its Facebook page on Thursday.

"We did not set out to make this a political agenda, and we weren't endorsing any one candidate," the post read. "We meant the flier as tongue-in-cheek and did not mean to offend anyone. It was a bad judgment on our part and we apologize."

Flowers said she did not accept the apology because it wasn't the first politically charged fiyer by Astro Skate. She supplied the Times with a screenshot of a flier advertising a "Love or Hate Trump Skate" on April 1, 2016.

"Come and skate with 'The Donald,'" the flier read. "Write 25 words or less about why you love, or hate, Trump and get in for only $2.16."

"There is no reason for them to even engage in this rhetoric," Flowers said.

Reached Friday, Astro Skate owner Chris Maganias said the apology was posted on Facebook after the business received calls about the ad from upset teachers. He said the flier was a joke, intended to be a fun promotion.

About half his revenue, he said, comes from school-related business. The school district paid Astro Skate $113,666 for its bus service during the 2016-17 school year. That figure does not account for how much individual schools have spent on events there.

"The part about Hillary is, like, the size of your thumb," said Maganias, 55. "It's just a joke. I guess it was a bad joke because … if I come off that list, I'll go out of business."

Maganias said the middle and high school students who attended his "Love or Hate Trump Skate" event loved it. Students voted for their favorite candidate and the winning side received free pizza.

He said he gave the event that name because it contained a rhyme. He has never held a similar political event for another election in four decades in business.

Over the years, he said, Astro Skate has hosted many events, including and science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, field trips for several schools. He said he has raised millions of dollars for schools.

"I can't tell you how many superintendents I was on first-name basis with," he said. "They reach out and I do what I'm supposed to do. Education foundation, activities, athletics."

He added, "I really don't want to go out of business and we've done a lot of good things in this county for a long, long time."

Astro Skate has four locations around Tampa Bay and one in Orlando.

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