Get smart fast: A rundown of Pinellas County School Board races

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Voters across the state will be hitting the polls this week for early voting and on Tuesday for the 2014 primary. Pinellas County’s offices up for election are crowded. Five school board seats are up for election. At least three of them will be decided on the August 26th primary. District 4 could be decided if one candidate wins the majority vote. Otherwise that race will be decided on November 4th between the top two finishers. District 7 will also appear on the General Election ballot because there is a primary. Here’s a rundown of who is on the primary election ballot for school board.

School Board District 2

Terry Krassner (incumbent) – Krassner has held this seat since 2010. She is a third-generation Pinellas County resident and graduate of Northeast High School. Both of Krassner’s parents were educators. Krassner has taught both elementary and middle school students in the district. She was an assistant principal at Starkey Elementary and a principal at Westgate Elementary.

Edorsements: Pinellas County Teachers Association, Pinellas Educational Support Professionals Association, Florida Public Services Union (FPSU), the SEIU local union representing Pinellas County School District’s non-instructional employees, Equality Florida,Pinellas Realtor Organization (PRO), The Sun Coast Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa Bay Times.

Total campaign contributions to date: $15,730

Chris Tauchnitz: Tauchnitz is a senior software engineer for VeriFone, where he has worked for nearly 20 years. He’s married to a Palm Harbor Middle School teacher, Jenifer Tauchnitz. As a U.S. Army veteran and computer guy, Tauchnitz wouldn’t bring an educational background to the school board, but he says he wants to bring a parent’s perspective. He’s the father of two sons, 4 and 8, and active in the Parent Teacher Association and Cub Scouts.

Endorsements: none listed

Total campaign contributions to date: $7,650

School Board District 3

Peggy O’Shea (incumbent) – O’Shea has held this seat since 2006. She served as vice chairwoman from 2007-2008 and chair from 2008-2009. She has served on several education-related boards, including the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas, School Advisory Council and the Choice Reform Task Force. Last month O’Shea announced she was battling breast cancer and cautioned she may miss some campaign events. However, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times she said she intends to maintain her duties on the school board and continue campaigning.

Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

Total campaign contributions to date: $7,970

Kent Curtis – Curtis is an environmental history professor at the University of South Florida St. Pete. He has a background training teachers in environmental science and founded a nonprofit consulting firm on what he calls “farm-to-plate” systems. Curtis has two children in the Pinellas County School system and his wife is a librarian.

Endorsements: St. Pete City Council members Steve Kornell, Karl Nurse and Amy Foster, Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, Gulfport City Commissioners Yolanda Roman and Michael Fridovich, Pinellas County Commissioners Janet Long and Charlie Justice, members of the Downtown Dunedin Merchants Association and the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County.

Total contributions to date: $14,946.07

School Board District 4 (no incumbent)

Ken Peluso – Peluso is a retired Palm Harbor chiropractor who owned his own practice and is father of two. He’s served on several education boards, including as chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, the Florida Early Learning Advisory Council and as past chair of the Palm Harbor Chamber Education Committee and Government Affairs Committee. He has also been active on the Parent Teacher Associations at East Lake High School, Carwise Middle School and Highland Lakes Elementary. Peluso is also the past president of the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce and served as the Palm Harbor Fire Commissioner from 2000-2006.

Endorsements – The Tampa Bay Times, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association/Pinellas Education Support Professionals Association, the Pinellas Realtors Association and a group of firefighters.

Total contributions to date: $37,455.38

Beverly Billiris – Billiris is a former mayor, vice mayor and city commissioner of Tarpon Springs. She’s a small business owner and former elementary school teacher. Her list of community service accomplishments on the Supervisor of Elections bio page is more than two dozen bullet points long and includes the Pinellas County Economic Development Advisory Council, The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the National League of Cities Economic Development Council and the Pinellas County Planning Council.

Endorsements: Robin Wikle (the incumbent in this seat)

Total contributions to date: $10,285

John Nygren – Nygren holds a master’s in education from Cambridge College in Cambridge MA. He has more than 35 years of teaching experience in both Massachusetts and Florida.  The retired teacher hopes to reduce the achievement gap in Pinellas Schools by boosting parental involvement. He also wants to increase vocational programs for students not planning to go to college.

Endorsements – none listed

Total contributions to date – $2,000

School Board District 6

Linda Lerner (incumbent) – Lerner has been on the school board since 1990. She served eight years on the Pinellas Planning Council and has served on the Board of the Pinellas Education Foundation, Stavros Institute Advisory Committee and presently is a member of the Education Foundation’s Career Education Board. Other community service includes positions on the Suncoast Center Board, Pinellas Youth Pride Board, Daystar Life Center Board, Suncoast Tiger Bay Board, Florida Department of Children and Families Community Alliance, and Health and Human Services Leadership Board.

Endorsements – Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, Pinellas Education Support Professionals Association, SEIU Florida Public Service Union, Equality Florida, Pinellas County Realtors, Suncoast Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa Bay Times.

Total contributions to date – $21,487

Maureen Ahern – Ahern is a former Tampa Bay area journalist. She also worked as a substitute teacher. Her husband is state Rep. Larry Ahern. Ahern is a mother of three and, like several other candidates for school board, wants to reduce the achievement gap in Pinellas County Schools.

Endorsements – Congressman David Jolly, Pinellas Sherriff Bob Gualtieri, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Clerk of Court Ken Burke, former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, former Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson, Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno, North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, Redington Beach Mayor Nick Simons, Indian Rocks Beach Mayor R.B. Johnson, Indian Shores Mayor Jim Lawrence and Pinellas Park City Councilman Rick Butler.

Total contributions to date – $24,327

District 7 candidates Rene Flowers, the incumbent, and write-in Irene Olive Cates will be on the November 4th General Election ballot

Find previous coverage of the 2014 Pinellas County School Board race here.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]