The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association and the Orange Education Support Professionals Association, the unions representing employees in Orange County Public Schools, announced their picks for School Board in a special election newsletter email this month. The newsletter noted that “after lengthy debate and discussion, these are the candidates that were chosen based on their interviews, questionnaire responses and overall commitment to quality public education.”
OCCTA and OESPA Presidents-Elect Wendy Doromal and Ron Pollard were joined by the Chair of the independent Political Action Committee, Alex Rodriguez-Heuer, to screen candidates, where questionnaires and face-to-face follow-up responses were scrutinized. The special newsletter took exception to Kathleen “Kat” Gordon, who “did not attend nor did she return our questionnaire…” and noting that “all other candidates did both.” The PAC recommended Gordon’s opponent, Mike Scott, for the District 5 race that includes much of central and west Orlando.
In District 4, the seat currently held by Pam Gould, a recommendation went to Michele Wilmot, a teacher at Bay Meadows Elementary School. For District 6, the nod went to the only incumbent on the list, Nancy Robbinson. Robbinson referred to the teachers’ evaluation system as “not perfect and was not designed to be used as it is currently used,” helping shore up her support among those who have been critical of the nonsensical plan. In District 7, for the seat currently held by incumbent Christine Moore, the PAC recommended retired long-term teacher Isadora Dean who noted that she would make the school board, “my only job,” bringing attention to Moore’s political and campaign work outside the school board.
The OCPS School Board has been largely stable, seeing only one new face as the result of 2014 elections when Linda Kobert replaced outgoing long-term school board member Rick Roach. Roach is currently running for State Senate in District 13 against Mike Clelland and Linda Stewart in the Democratic primary. The winner of that Democratic primary will face Republican Dean Asher, who has amassed a small fortune in reserves. Asher, a real estate agent, has already reported over $272,000 in monetary contributions, spending only $62,000 on a myriad of campaign services.
If the OCPS employee unions have their way, there will be much more turnover on the school board as the result of the August 30th races. Only a candidate who has a majority of votes will prevail on August 30th. The top two school board candidates who do not get a majority of votes in the August 30th races will run head-to-head in a final balloting run-off election on November 8. The qualifying period for school board closes at noon on June 24, leaving open last-minute filings for additional candidates. Recommendations from the union PAC’s leadership will go to the full membership for a final confirmation sometime later this summer.
Dr. Carl Howard is a teacher and union member in Orlando.