The Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, the union for the county’s instructional staff, has announced its recommendations for School Board candidates ahead of next month’s election.
The group made its decisions via a private forum, where about five union members interviewed the candidates, president Vince LaBorante said.
"Each candidate was given about 30 minutes and asked a series of questions," he said. "Based upon the responses, our political committee put forth their endorsement."
For the District 1 seat, the union recommended Catherine "Kay" Hatch, a 69-year-old retired nurse and pastor new to the county, over incumbent and current board Chairman Mark Johnson. She moved to the area from Ohio after buying a house in Spring Hill in 2012 and says running for office is a "new venture" for her.
Schools advocate Jimmy Lodato, 76, is the union’s pick for the District 3 seat over former county official Diane Rowden and Hernando newcomer Julius "Jules" Blayzs, a retired medical lab tester from Chicago.
Retired from a career in marketing and sales, Lodato’s campaign is largely centered on the work he did in 2015 to revive the county’s half-cent sales tax for school capital improvement projects and his ongoing support of schools. A Hernando resident since 1999, he has unsuccessfully run for County Commission three times, but remained involved in local politics.
"He was essential in the 1/2 cent campaign which has provided the funds for much needed repairs to our schools," said a post on the union’s Facebook page. "HTCA is excited to see what he has in store for the students, staff and families of Hernando County once he gets on the board!!"
The union endorsed incumbent Susan Duval, 71, for re-election to the District 5 seat. In a post announcing their support of the longtime Hernando educator on its Facebook page, the group said "she’s done an amazing job" since first elected to the board in 2014.
"Always does her homework — let’s keep her on the board," the post said.
Duval faces Brooksville pastor Joseph Santerelli. He has said the board’s "shameful" June decision to fire superintendent Lori Romano — which Duval supported — inspired him to run. Romano’s termination came after she fired 47 teachers at Moton Elementary, which violated the union’s contract with the district.
The union offered all three endorsed candidates a $250 campaign donation. Susan Duval declined the money, telling the group to put it toward its scholarship fund instead, LaBorante said.
Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareevs.