Trevor Tucker is one of five candidates in two races for Flagler County School Board in the Aug. 28 primary election.
The two school board elections–for District 2 and 4–are non-partisan races: all registered voters in Flagler County are eligible to cast a ballot in the two races–whether registered Democratic, Republican, Independent or from a minor party. (The District 1 seat was also up this year, but incumbent Andy Dance was re-elected without opposition.)
You may cast a vote in both races regardless of the district, the town or the subdivision you live in. The election on Aug. 28 will decide the winner in District 4 between Tucker, the incumbent, and Paul Anderson because that race has just two candidates. District 2 is a three-way race between incumbent Janet McDonald, John Fischer and Carl Jones. The race in this case would be decided only if a candidate wins better than 50 percent of the vote. Short of that, the top two vote-getters will go on to a run-off, to be decided in the general election on Nov. 6.
FlaglerLive submitted 11 identical questions to the school board candidates, who replied in writing, with the understanding that some follow-up questions may be asked, and that all exchanges would be on the record. Questions appear in bold, follow-up questions, when necessary, appear in bold and italics, and may be awaiting answers. When a candidate fails to answer a question, that’s noted in red. The questions and follow-ups attempt to elicit precise answers, but the candidates don’t always comply.
School board members serve four-year terms and are paid $33,447 a year.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Purpose and vision
- District’s B Grade
- District’s weaknesses and successes
- Half-cent sales surtax
- School deputies
- Student surveillance
- Term limits and charter schools
- Flagship programs
- Teacher unions
- Background check
Place and Date of Birth: Daytona Beach, Jan. 12, 1976.
Current job: Business Owner (Sun Country Pest Control), School Board member.
Net worth: $813,445. Click here for financial disclosure form.
Political affiliation (keeping in mind that school board races are non-partisan): Republican
Websites and Social Media: None.
1. What is your vision for public education in Flagler County and how are you uniquely qualified to help enact it within the limitations of the job? If you’re an incumbent, how have you enacted it in your previous years? If you’re a challenger, what have you done to prepare?
My vision for public education is for rigorous academics, which enable students to attend higher education after leaving our school district, and job training or certificate program that enables students to easily find employment after leaving our district. I believe we are ahead on the academic side with IB at FPC and ACE starting this year at Matanzas (the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education), dual enrollment, and AP courses. I believe we are moving in the right direction by giving students in high school the opportunity for certificate programs for job training. We need more programs that enable a student to find a job immediately out of high school. As a board member I have supported programs like FPC’s fire academy and a criminal justice academy starting at Matanzas this year.
Flagler County Commission
Greg Hansen (Rep., Dist. 2)
Dennis McDonald (Ind., Dist. 2)
Joe Mullins (Rep., Dist. 4)
Jane Gentile-Youd (Ind., Dist. 4)
Flagler School Board
Janet McDonald (Dist. 2)
John Fischer (Dist. 2)
The Candidates on ESE
Palm Coast City Council
Jon Netts (Dist. 2)
Jack Howell(Dist. 2)
Eddie Branquinho (Dist. 4)
John Tipton IV (Dist. 4)
2. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring to the board, what your temperament is like: if you’re an incumbent, what do you consider may have been a mistake or a misjudgment on your part in your official capacity—something you’d do over, differently–in the past four years? If you’re a challenger, apply the question to your work or civic involvement.
I am usually a calm, mild mannered individual but will take a stand on items I do not think are right. I do not get easily frustrated or overwhelmed. I try not to speak unless I have something worth saying, which has been a fault. I have been criticized for not arguing my points enough. I have made a mistake of not fully supporting the graduate 100 initiatives in its inception, only because of the way the committee was created. I felt, as a board member a committee should not be made without the input of the board. I held a grudge and should not have, because ultimately the goal was worth doing, even though I did not agree with the process.
3. The Flagler school district earned a B for the seventh year in a row. If you’re the incumbent, how do you defend your tenure from reflecting a middling performance, at least in the state’s eyes and in the eyes of families or businesses looking to relocate to Flagler?
I would suggest that any family or business looking to relocate to Flagler come see the schools first-hand. There is more to education then just the letter grade. I would suggest that the expansion of Flagship programs and acceleration opportunities in Flagler County Schools is unique in the state of Florida. Besides the district grade, board members must oversee a budget of roughly $186 million, and our audits have come out clean. Every time the state changes laws our district must adopt policies to reflect those laws.
But shouldn’t those Flagship programs and expanded acceleration opportunities have, if they’ve been effective, made it easier for the district to get to an A? If they have been effective (given the weight accelerated programs have in school grading), does that then not mask other, deeper achievement gaps, as for example with lower-quartile achievement you refer to below? Assuming you’re not saying letter grades are irrelevant, what if anything are you doing to push for that A?
I do believe that the Flagship programs are making an impact on students, but not every student at this time is involved in the Flagship programs. Also we have lagging data for acceleration and school grades. The graduation rate and acceleration are used from the 16-17 school year for our last years grade (17-18). We are looking at ways to bring up the the lowest quartile by tracking those students earlier in the school year so they can get the supports necessary to move forward in their education. Learning gains in the lowest quartile coupled with the graduation rate for 17-18, plus acceleration points should move us to the A. If the district does not get the lowest quartile to move in a better direction with learning gains then we will still be a B.
4. What are the district’s three brightest successes and the three failures that affect students most? What will be your chief priorities regarding student achievement, within the limits of the doable—that is, four years from now, what can we look back to and say: you were responsible?
Three successes are Flagship Programs, keeping arts in education during financially difficult times, and offering multiple acceleration opportunities (example IB, Ace, dual enrollment with DSC, UCF, BCC, and UF). Three failures would be not pushing the lowest quartile of students for learning gains, rolling out the one-to-one imitative without enough training for the teachers, and limiting the opportunity for students to take remediation courses. In four years I hope that the district has moved to an A by taking the lowest quartile and moving them to higher test scores by identifying each student earlier in order to provide the supports necessary to move them ahead.
5. In 2022, the last year of your tenure, should you win, the district’s half-penny surtax on the sales tax expires. The district will all but certainly seek to renew it. Do you support its renewal? Would you alter its scope and fund different items from those funded now?
Yes I will support to renew the half penny sales tax. I would want to alter the scope of the funding to include technology, capital improvements and security. I would add the last item in order to have a reliable source for the state mandate of SRD’s in each school.
A few years ago voters rejected a modest tax increase that included more spending for security. Given that history and the state’s expanded appropriations for school security, why should voters want more money diverted to security–and wouldn’t that be an invitation to the county to cut its share of the cost, now at roughly 50 percent?
I want a dedicated funding source for security. The state in the past has cut funding from initiatives they introduced. The state is requiring deputies in schools, but are only funding about half. I would not want to have to cut any educational programs in order to fulfill the security requirement by the state. Also with the county paying for half of the deputies currently, there is never a guarantee that will continue, but if we have money from the half penny sales tax for security, technology, and capital then we should have safety and security for students and staff.
6. The County Commission through the sheriff pay for half the cost of sheriff’s deputies in schools but it doesn’t have to: security is a district responsibility. If Amendment 1 passes and county government revenue drops next year with the expansion of the homestead exemption (which would not affect school revenue), the county may retreat from its 50-50 commitment. If it does, how do you propose making up the difference? If arming staff as opposed to contracting with the sheriff is the more affordable way to go, would you?
I would not wish to arm staff even if it costs the district more, teachers and administrators are professional educators and should remained focused on educating our students. I believe most teachers would lay down their lives for their students, but I want their sole focus to be on education. Safety should fall on sworn law enforcement officers. If the County Commission does not fund half of the SRD’s then I would try to find areas in our budget that are not required by law to cut. Safety must always be a priority of the School District.
7. Explain Flagler County’s one-to-one technology initiative and how it’s paid for. Is the district spending too much on technology? Too little? By what objective measure would you say the initiative has been a success—or has fallen short?
The one-to-one technology initiative is for each student in Flagler County Public Schools to have either a laptop or a tablet to use in the pursuit of academic excellence. The initiative is funded through a voted in (by the public not school board) a half penny sales tax. In my opinion the one-to-one initiative has been a success in that each student now has access to devices no matter what their family economic situation. The district providing these devices to every student is a success. I believe in the beginning of the drive for the one-to-one imitative it failed as some teachers fully embraced the change and others were resistant to use the technology. The failure was in the training provided to staff in how to properly implement the technology. I believe now that the proper training is occurring and students are using the technology to enhance their education.
Do we have objective measures that show the benefits of the 1-to-1 initiative? Your colleague Janet McDonald says we do not.
The Flagler County School District does not have measurable for the 1 to 1 initiative at this time. The 1 to 1 initiative is great for students as it gives every student the ability to access technology no matter what income level. Having six out of nine schools in the federal title 1 program makes low income students have access to devices that are becoming everyday items in the work force. I will make an analogy that we also have no measures for art in elementary school, but we continue to fund it, as it is in my opinion valuable to a well rounded education of each student. Just as a student who is comfortable with computers and tablets will have a step ahead of a student who did not have access to these technology tools when entering the work force.
8. Define the limits of a student’s free expression in and out of school not necessarily as the district’s Code of Conduct sets them out, but as you would craft them, including what a student may or may not say on social media. Evaluate the district’s use of a contractor such as Social Sentinel to monitor certain social media activities on and off campus.
A student should have free expression of any idea as long as that idea does not harm another. I believe that expressions of violence, and hate should not be tolerated. If expressions of violence and hate are tolerated and not addressed then a student may feel that these are actions are accepted by others. Parents and adults should take the lead on these issues. I feel that Social Sentinel is a valuable asset to the school district, in that it can screen millions of different social sites and posts to make sure students are not trying to create violence to others or themselves, or spread messages of hate.
9. Amendment 8 stacks three proposals into one, in hopes of winning a 60 percent majority. Let’s break it down as if it were separate parts: Do you support term limits for school board members? Explain your answer. Explain the potential effects on the district of that portion of the proposed constitutional amendment that would shift charter-school oversight to the state, from the local district, and analyze for us how effectively you think the board has overseen existing or potential charter schools in the past five years.
I do not support term limits for school board members. I believe anytime you take the ability of the voter to choose their representative, then you are taking the power away from the voter. Shifting Charter School oversight to the state from the local government would subvert the authority of the local school board. If this does pass then the charter schools should not be part of the grading system for the school district. How can a charter school count toward the district grade if the local school board has no oversight at all? Now the school board has limited oversight of the current charter schools, but at least it gives the local school board the ability to pull a charter if the school is not performing to the contracted standards. I believe that the school board has performed its duties as a responsible agent for the money that goes to charter schools and with oversight of the charter schools. When global outreach academy left during the winter break without notifying the district, it put an undue burden on Flagler County Public Schools to place the students in a short period of time. The state should allow school districts to have some course of action if a charter leaves unexpectedly. An example would be some sort of surety bond.
The district’s Flagship programs have given students the opportunity to broaden their areas of study, and create unique learning opportunities that could lead to higher education or a career. The biggest strength of these programs is that any student who had participated in a Flagship program graduates at a 98% graduation rate. The largest weakness of these programs is that most rely on outside funding, which could lead to the programs disappearing if the funding ends. I would like to see the state fund these programs in order to guarantee they will always be available for future students.
11. Have you ever been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor anywhere in Flagler, Florida or the United States (other than a speeding ticket), or faced a civil action other than a divorce, but including bankruptcies? If so, please explain, including cases where charges did not lead to conviction.
2018 Election Candidates, Flagler County
|County Commission District 2||Greg Hansen, Incumbent (Rep)||Abby Romaine (Rep)||Dennis McDonald (NPA)|
|County Commission District 4||Nate McLaughlin, Incumbent (Rep)||Joe Mullins (Rep)||Jane Gentile-Youd (NPA)|
|School Board District 1||Andy Dance, Incumbent||Unopposed|
|School Board District 2||Janet McDonald, Incumbent||John Fischer||Carl Jones|
|School Board District 4||Trevor Tucker, Incumbent||Paul Anderson|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 2||Jack Howell||Jon Netts|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 4||Jose Eduardo Branquinho||Corinne Marie Hermle||John Tipton|
|Florida House District 24||Paul Renner, Incumbent (Rep)||Adam Morley (Dem)|
|Congressional District 6, Democratic Primary||Stephen Sevigny||Nancy Soderberg||John Upchurch|
|Congressional District 6, GOP Primary||Fred Costello||Michael Waltz||John Ward|