CLAY COUNTY – The Clay County Schools District has two candidates so far in the race for District 4, which encompasses the western and southern parts of the county such as Middleburg and Keystone …
CLAY COUNTY – The Clay County Schools District has two candidates so far in the race for District 4, which encompasses the western and southern parts of the county such as Middleburg and Keystone Heights.
Incumbent Tina Bullock, from Keystone Heights, was elected in 2018 and she has previous board member experience. She faces Michele Hanson, a retired teacher who taught in the county for nearly two decades. Bullock is a retired principal, assistant principal and teacher. One of the biggest challenges in front of the district is growth, she said, with thousands of homes and at least five schools scheduled for construction. Another issue is preparing students by offering and boosting career pathways such as career and technical education, International Baccalaureate programs and readying students for the military. Resources for middle and elementary schools are vital also, she added.
She said the board’s work is never finished.
“Our job is to open doors for students, not close them,” Bullock said. “I believe every student is gifted in some way. I think our job is to get them on the right path.”
In addition to maintaining and improving on the district’s “A” rating and high state ranking, safety and security are priorities, she said. School entrances, exits and front offices have changed dramatically, she said.
“I feel like safety and security is a critical thing, at the end of the day, we want every child to go home safe,” Bullock said.
As the challenger, Hanson retired from the district last year after an 18-year teaching career. Her key talking points are parent involvement and feedback, vetting district materials to assist parents and taking the politics out of education.
Empowering parents to participate in education is a challenge, she said. Hanson said she wanted to see more done on the district level because parents are crucial to the success of the student.
“We need to get parents back in the classroom,” Hanson said. “It’s about seeing what their children are reading and the curriculum, and supporting their kids.”
Hanson said education is a tool that can change the world. She likened the relationship of teachers, parents and students to a triangle, where each side supports and is dependent on the other.
Hanson called for fiscal responsibility with the board’s budget and rebuilding bridges with parents. She advocated for systems where curriculum and materials can be vetted and opposed things like mask mandates where the decisions are taken out of parents’ hand, she said.
“Communication is key,” Hanson said. “That goes for the school board and its constituents, which is every single person in the county.”
The primary is on Aug. 23, which could trim the race to two candidates if more join the race, and the general election is on Nov. 8.
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