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Two file to run against Pinellas County School Board member Janet Clark

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Two Pinellas County educators have filed to run for Pinellas County School Board. One is a former elementary school teacher, the other an adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College. The two are vying to unseat incumbent Janet Clark.

Joanne Lentino is a former Gulfport Elementary first grade teacher and a familiar face in the St. Pete progressive activism circles.

Matt Stewart currently serves as the deputy director for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and teaches ethics at SPC.

The at-large District 1 seat the two are running for spans parts of North Pinellas including East Lake and Safety Harbor as well as parts of Pinellas Park and Seminole through the center of the county.

Clark has not yet filed to run for re-election, but plans to do so. She’s been a member of the Pinellas County School Board since 2004.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Clark said she put off filing paperwork because she doesn’t like fundraising. She described the current state of “things” as going well. That despite the 2015 expose in the Tampa Bay Times uncovering five chronically failing elementary schools in South St. Pete.

Her reasoning – the current board is working well with School Superintendent Michael Grego.

Clark said her re-election platform will include supporting struggling schools.

District 4 incumbent Ken Peluso is also running or re-election. His District includes Tarpon Springs, East Lake and Palm Harbor. Also running for re-election is longtime school board member Carol Cook. If re-elected it would be Cook’s fifth term. Cook’s District 5 spans parts of Largo and Clearwater.

Cook has drawn challengers including Indian Shores re estate broker Mike Petruccelli and retired Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office communications maintenance supervisor Eliseo Santana Jr.

Peluso has not yet drawn a challenger. Only Peluso and Lentino have posted fundraising totals so far. Peluso has banked $5,000 while Lentino started her coffers out with $350.

Incumbents could face difficult re-elections this year because of the Failure Factories series. Local officials and community leaders have rallied for changes to improve the five failing schools. That often spells trouble for sitting elected officials.

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 Patch.com 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 janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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