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Four non-partisan school board races on the primary ballot

August 9, 2018
Lehigh Acres Citizen

More than a dozen candidates are running in hope of garnering one of the four up-for-grabs school board seats in the Primary Election Aug. 28.

Three of the non-partisan races - those for Districts 1, 4 and 5 - are limited to voters registered within the district.

All voters, regardless of party affiliation or the district in which they live, can cast a ballot in District 6 where candidates are running "at large," or countywide.

The relatively new format went into effect two years ago after voters passed an amendment that changed the five-member, all-elected-at-large board into a seven-member board with five elected within their district and two elected district wide.

The new seven-member board still makes decisions, and sets policy for, all schools within the School District of Lee County.

There are four candidates running in at-large District 6; two candidates in District 1, which will be decided Aug. 28; four candidates in District 4; and five in District 5, which is mostly Lehigh Acres.

Voters residing in parts of Cape Coral, Pine Island and Sanibel, regardless of their party affiliation, can vote for a District 1 candidate.

Voters residing in parts of Cape Coral, North Fort Myers and Dunbar, regardless of their party affiliation, can cast their vote for District 4 school board candidate.

- School Board Member District 6 (at large, everyone votes)

* Nicholas Alexander


Profession: Management Consultant

Education/Degrees: Doctorate, Management; MBA, Finance; BS, Mechanical Engineering

Why are you running for the School Board?

"I plan to bring my 20-plus years of executive experience to the board in order to produce greater value in our communities by increasing career and college readiness upon graduation."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"I plan to increase collaboration amongst elected officials, community leaders, and county residents for the sole purpose of protecting and educating our K-12 students who rely on publicly-funded educational resources."

* Lori Fayhee

Age: 58

Profession: Full-time mom; student advocate and a voice for teachers. Second Vice President of the Lee Republican Women's Club and Legislative Committee Chair for the Lee Republican Women Federated

Education/Degrees: Associates degree and upper level college credits and certified medical technician

Why are you running for the School Board?

"I am running for school board because I am passionate about the success of our students and the economic development of Lee County. I oppose Common Core, high stakes testing and raising taxes."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"I would like to increase the graduation rate, which is currently about 77 percent and I would like to increase safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility. I would like to include vocational training, as well as life and social skills for our students in order for them to become viable and valuable contributors of the community."

* Betsy Vaughn

Age: 71

Profession: Retired Secondary English teacher

Education/Degrees: Bachelors in English and a Master's in education

Why are you running for the School Board?

"A strong system of public education benefits not only the individual students, but also the entire community."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"I will work to ensure financial accountability, respect and fair wages/benefits for teachers and staff, and equal access to special programs and resources for all students."

* Karen Putman Watson

Age: 53

Profession: Executive Director

Education/Degrees: Master Degree of Social Work

Why are you running for the School Board?

"I am a native of Lee County who is concerned and committed to our community. My diverse experience; expertise and education to ensure all children and employees receive equality and equity in education to reach their potential and working environment."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"I will work to utilize resources to ensure every child receives equality and equity education, increase graduation/GED rate, to provide support resources and services to employees. I will increase retention, diversity and inclusion of employees. I will ensure supportive service for children with mental health is accessible for children and their families."

- School Board Member District 1 (mostly Cape Coral, Pine Island and Sanibel, regardless of party affiliation)

* Charles B. Dailey

Age: 66

Profession: Retired, Educational Consultant

Education/Degrees: B.S. Social Studies; M.S. Educational Administration; Honorary Doctorate Community Service

Why are you running for the School Board?

"To effectively provide oversight and strong stewardship of the tax-payers dollars, create a sense of trust, transparency, and proactive collaborations with all stakeholders, which will have a positive impact on academic achievement for all students."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"A process that will transition the district out of the tremendous deficit we are currently experiencing with an independent auditor, Increased stakeholder input, and academic success for all students without a half cents sales tax that is being requested from the superintendent and the current School Board that will be imposed on taxpayers for the next 10 years while the current deficit will be paid off within a five year period. I say no!"

* Mary Fischer (incumbent)

Age: 75

Profession: School Board Member, former school counselor and certified family mediator

Education/Degrees: Bachelor's in Social Science, Master's in Counselor Education and AA degree in Human Resources

Why are you running for the School Board?

"I am running to be a voice for students and community and to continue to "connect school, family and community."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"I hope to work to improve communication with transparency; enhance safety and security from the inside out; to be a watchdog for fiscal responsibility and accountability; to increase professional respect and adequate compensation for staff and to reduce time spent on testing."

- School District Member District 4 (mostly Cape Coral, North Fort Myers and Dunbar)

* Don H. Armstrong

Age: 47

Profession: Plumber, Father, Former School Board Member

Education/Degree: Journeyman Trade School

Why are you running for the school board?

"I am running for the school board so that parents, students, citizens, and visitors of Lee County have a representative that advocates for their ideas and not the agenda of the district administration."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"Once elected, I will restore public confidence in the district through transparency, accountability, and access to a board member to correct any district concerns including, but not limited to, finance, curriculum, transportation, discipline, and safety."

* Debbie Jordan

Age: 60

Profession: (Owner) Event Planner/Caterer

Education/Degrees: Business/Hospitality

Why are you running for the School Board?

"All children do not fit into the same box, working to ensure that every child will be given the opportunity to learn to their fullest potential including those with special needs by providing testing in a timely manner. A clear path."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"Work towards better communication with board, state, local government and community. Bringing community businesses and community together so that our schools will have the tools, talent and the funds needed to be successful. A successful school system is for the economy."

* Louis Navarra

Age: 73 yrs

Profession: Retired teacher, 46 years LCSD

Education/Degrees: AA degree, BA Elementary Education, MS educational administration

Why are you running for the School Board?

"To bring back honesty, fiscal responsibility, reform to board practices."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"Find the money in the budget to fund projects without a regressive half/cent sales tax increase."

* Geraldine "Gerri" Ware

Age: 76

Profession: Nurse, State Farm Insurance agent, Real Estate agent, provider for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities

Education/Degrees? BS in Nursing, MS in administration and supervision of adult education

Why are you running for the School Board?

"I ran for school board 35 years ago, but lost. I never lost my passion to advocate for students in education. I want to increase community and parent involvement.

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"Help school board members with capital funds to build the schools we need. To get the kids and community involved in the schools. I want to increase community and parent involvement."

- School Board Member District 5 (mostly Lehigh Acres)

* Gwynetta "Gwyn" Gittens


Profession: Retired Educator Lee County Schools and retired VP of Training for Bank of America


Why are you running for the School Board?

"To make sure our community needs are represented and their voices heard."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"To help the children of my community receive the education that best meets their needs."

* Moses Jackson II

Age: 33

Profession: Education

Education/Degrees: Bachelor's in business administration

Why are you running for the School Board?

"Running for School Board was a goal I set back in January 2013, however, I started as a paraprofessional and then became a teacher before entering the race."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"I hope to accomplish vocational skills development, raise awareness and services in regards to mental health, and resource equity."

* Pam LaRiviere (incumbent)

Age: 63

Profession: Educator and School Board member

Education/Degree: Bachelors in elementary education and masters in reading education

Why are you running for the School Board?

"I am running again because I love the School District of Lee County, it's students and the people it serves. I do this for the people. I am very involved."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"There are some things I would like to continue doing . . . sense of camaraderie among board members. I also want to continue working to help build a more child centered education that fully engages our students. I want to work to build positive working relationships with all of our stake holders, including our legislators and other community leaders. We are in the best situation I have ever seen our school district in. We have put in procedures and processes that should have been put in place 12 and 13 years ago. We are working smarter, tighter and more efficiently. I want to be there to help continue that forward flow."

* Taruas Pugh

Age: 36

Profession: Business owner, entrepreneur trainer and security guard with the School District of Lee County

Education/Degree: lnformation Technology

Why are you running for the School Board?

"After the Parkland High School shooting earlier this year, I helped students from across Lee County organize a trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the 'March For Our Lives' school safety rally. That event made me want to help secure all of our students, and I then reached the decision to run for office, and offer my service as a member of the Lee County School Board."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"That our school district can truly be a World-Class School System that secures our schoolhouses, provides excellent education for our students, has diversity of leadership that reflects our communities, and spends taxpayer funds in a financially responsible manner."

* Jon Larsen Shudlick

Age: 76

Profession: Biographer, author, editor, self-publisher and real estate broker

Education/Degrees: Geomorphology, real estate designations: CAI, GRI, CRS, MRA, MFLA and MSA

Why are you running for the School Board?

"I will change the downward trend in education as the graphs show the cost of education has been going up through the ceiling while the achievement test scores are dropping due to the nearly 40-year-old Federal Department of Education, which drains the economy of nearly $70 billion a year while mandating educational disasters like Common Core, which dumbs down our students, writes Walter E. Williams in the Nation's Report Card 2015, when it comes to reading and math skills, where just 34 percent and 33 percent respectively of U.S. eighth grade students tested proficient or above."

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

"We need a 180-degree change from primarily academic promotion to a dual-enrollment educational system where a vocational/technical college emphasis would morph with a curriculum for the high school diploma and provide an opportunity for students to make the connection between school and the workplace."



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