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Carol Cook, Joanne Lentino victorious in Pinellas School Board races

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Carol Cook and Joanne Lentino won the two open seats on the Pinellas County School Board.

The races for both the District 1 and District 5 seats centered on the poor performance of five schools in southern St. Petersburg.

Lentino, her opponent Matt Stewart, and Cook’s opponent Eliseo Santana had contended new blood and new ideas were needed on the board to turn those schools around. Cook said the turnaround had already begun because the district had put programs and employees in place to help the children in those schools. Both races were nonpartisan.

Lentino, who won the countywide race for District 1, is a retired teacher. Stewart is an HR manager over talent management for Hillsborough County and a member of the adjunct faculty at St. Petersburg College. It was the first time either had sought public office.

Voters in District 5 were apparently happy with Cook’s long performance on the board. She outdistanced Santana by about 65 percent to 35 percent early on and retained that lead over Santana, a retired communications maintenance supervisor at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Santana was making his first run for public office.

Voters also agreed to a third extension of a half-mill property tax that pays for stipends for teachers and for music, art, and reading programs and technology. The tax amounts to 50 cents on every $1,000 of assessed, taxable value. So the owners of a house valued at $150,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption pays about $62.50 a year.

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