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Our Picks for School Board: Oliveras, Berrey, Wright and Lee

DISTRICT 2: Current School Board member Nancy Broner is not running for re-election. There are four candidates seeking to replace her.

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.

Gary Oliveras (left) and Steve Berrey (right)

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.

10 Responses »

  1. Theresa Graham is running because she's bored? That explains her aloof demeanor at the recent REC meeting.

    Personally, I'd rather have someone who is personable and dedicated to education as my schoolboard representative. Get a real job Theresa.

    These people must thing we're rubes.

  2. Interesting that the writer has predicted a Lee/graham runoff. Lee has spent ten times the money that Graham has ans hould be able to win it all in the first round. However, it does not appear that it has been spent well. Most of it has gone to his political consultent instead of to things like mail and television. It appears that Lee's priorities are out of whack and it really makes me wonder if he could make good decision on the school board.

    • Graham has come upon some cash - big full color commercial signs and literature. Plus she's earned some significant name recognition in her 2 runs for City Council.

      And she's the only female in the race... some people think that might matter because it's the School Board.

      If I had to predict I'd say Lee polls in the mid-40's and Graham is in the mid-20's. Lee wins it in the run-off. But that's ONLY a prediction, not based on any data... we will see what happens on Tuesday.

  3. I don't know Ms Graham but would like to see verification of the "bored" quote since it is being used in a such a negative manner. I applaud citizens who make the effort to get involved in our political process...though some should also know when to retire...

  4. If you want verification, ask anyone that was at the Republican Executive Committee meeting on Monday night.

  5. I was at the REC meeting: Graham said she was running because she was bored. I'm sure she was joking. But she must also think people are going to flock to her and thank her for blessing them with her candidacy.

  6. I think voters are looking for public servants. Those who come into office with that perspective are going to fare better than those who see themselves as Gods' gift to politics.

  7. The school board for years has been made up of politicians using it as a stepping stone up or down and people filled with hubris who have at best a tenuous relationship with education and that is one of the biggest reasons we find ourselves in such a deep hole.

    We need people on the board who have been teaching the children, working side by side with other teachers in the schools. Not to do so would be the equivalent of saying the way we have been doing things has been fine and I hope we call agree it hasn't been.

    Becki Couch and John King best fit the criteria for what the city and our children need.

  8. While I respect Chris' opinion, my question is this:

    If a person has been teaching in the classroom - does that make them a good principal?

    If a person has been a principal, does that make them a good administrator?

    We need some type of checks and balances on our School Board. We need an understanding of budget shortfalls and how to avoid them, or how to adjust a business plan so that you don't have budget shortfalls.

    No - I don't teach in a classroom. I am, however, very involved in my son's education and my wife's career. I'm also a pragmatist and understand that you don't go on a spending spree when you have a 75 million dollar budget shortfall.

    We have five members of the current board that are either teachers by profession - or have taught previous to making career transitions. .

    So, under your theory - the mess we're in ... the Joey Wise experiement... America's Choice... the shortened high school day that I still can't understand how this saved us any money... the hiring of a PR firm for $129,000 and subsequent declaration that we are now in a financial crisis...

    How does any of this quantify to classroom experience?

    It's more than just about the classroom. It's supply-side economics... it's hiring and firing... it's personnel management... it's fiscal management...

    It's about the kids, the parents and the betterment of Jacksonville.