Our Picks for School Board: Oliveras, Berrey, Wright and Lee
John King is a teacher at Sandalwood High School. Billy Reynolds is the former principal of Mayport Middle School, but has come under heavy fire for allegations of sexual misconduct and was stripped of his teaching license in 2006.
Theresa Graham, who ran unsuccessfully twice for City Council, is back. This time seeking a seat on the Duval School Board, Graham joked recently that she had "gotten bored" and decided to run again.
Fred "Fel" Lee is a businessman with local government experience who is focusing on improving accountability and discipline within the school system.
Currently the Vice Mayor of Neptune Beach, Lee has done his homework and understands the challenges the School Board will be facing over the next four years.
We expect this race may go to a run-off between Lee and Graham, but Lee is clearly the best choice.
We endorse Fred "Fel" Lee for Duval County School Board.
DISTRICT 4: Irvin PeDro Cohen, Alzic D. Upton and Paula D. Wright are all seeking to fill the seat currently held by Brenda Priestly Jackson, who is leaving to run for Jacksonville City Council.
Wright has captured the endorsements of the Northeast Florida Builders Association, the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors and Duval Teachers United. Cohen has the support of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce (via JAXBIZ) among others.
All three candidates possess ample experience working with the community, but Wright's experience goes a step beyond. She is currently employed as a coordinator of high school acceleration programs with the District and in the past has hosted a radio program and served as publisher of a community newspaper. She is active within School Advisory Councils and promises to be a full-time representative on the School Board if elected.
Cohen provides an attractive alternative, currently a program director with the Jacksonville Children's Commission. He has previously run for Jacksonville City Council.
Because of her extensive community experience, we endorse Paula D. Wright for Duval County School Board.
DISTRICT 6: This is certainly the most interesting race among the three School Board seats up for grabs, and the one that's almost certain to result in a run-off election between the top two finishers on Tuesday.
Former State Representative and City Councilman Eric Smith is considered the front-runner by most, both because of his years and experience and because he's raised the most money of the four candidates in the race. Going toe-to-toe with Smith is Becki Couch, a Baldwin teacher who is running a very aggressive campaign. Couch was endorsed by the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce's campaign committee and she brings a lot of practical teaching experience to the table.
The other two candidates in the race are businessman Steve Berrey, who is married to a teacher, and JSO officer Gary Oliveras, who has spent time working inside Duval County Schools as a school resource officer.
Eric Smith is a dedicated public servant, but the School Board should not turn into a retirement home for politicians. Couch's teaching experience is a plus, but her plans for our schools lack specificity and rely too heavily on "feel good" statements about getting the community involved.
Oliveras has an obvious passion for education and has really studied the issues facing our school system. All of the candidates talk about improving student safety, but Oliveras knows the problems first-hand and would bring a unique and very appealing perspective to the School Board.
Berrey's focus on cutting waste and eliminating bureaucracy is also very appealing. He's not afraid to think outside the box and has clearly done his homework. Berrey would hit the ground running, bringing a practical business perspective onto a School Board that is overloaded with administrators and politicians.
We endorse Gary Oliveras and Steve Berrey for Duval County School Board.
Hopefully at least one of them will make it into the inevitable run-off election.