Trevor Tucker, an incumbent, is one of seven candidates in three races for Flagler County School Board in the Aug. 23 primary election. He faces only one opponent: Christy Chong.
School board elections–for Districts 1, 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.
If you are a registered voter in Flagler County, you may cast a vote in all three races regardless of the district, the town or the subdivision you live in–or whether you are out of state or living abroad, in which case absentee ballots may be sent in.
The election on Aug. 23 will decide the winners in District 1 between incumbent Jill Woolbright and Sally Hunt, and in District 4 between Tucker and Chong. District 2, where incumbent Janet McDonald has opted not to run (she is running for a county commission seat) is a three-way race between Lance Alred, Will Furry and Courtney VandeBunte. 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. 8.
FlaglerLive submitted 14 identical questions to the school board candidates, who replied in writing, with the understanding that some follow-up questions may be asked. 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 $36,000 a year. The amount is set by the Legislature, not the local school board. It increases by a shade under $1,000 each year. Last spring the Legislature passed HB1467, a bill, enacted this year, that institutes a 12-year term limit for school board members. But the clock doesn’t start ticking until November. In other words, any school board member who has served one or more term by then will not have that time counted against the tenure. The restriction is on consecutive years only.
|To vote: see a sample ballot here. Early voting is between Aug. 13 and Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at four sites in the county, listed here. You may vote early at any of the four sites regardless of your precinct location. To vote by mail, request your mail-in ballot here. Because of the Legislature's new law, restricting voting convenience, drop boxes are available, but only to a limited degree. The ballot drop box at the Elections Office will be monitored by a staff member beginning 60 days prior to the election, through Election Day. This drop box will no longer be available after office hours or on weekends, except during the early voting period. Other drop boxes will be available at early voting locations, but only during the days of early voting, and only during voting hours. Mail ballots must be received in the Elections Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted. If returning your ballot by mail, please allow at least ten days for delivery. A postmark does not extend this deadline. You may track your ballot here. All other election-procedure related inquiries can be answered at the Elections Office's website.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Purpose, vision and preparation
- Role models
- Budget cuts
- District accomplishments and failures
- Half-penny sales tax
- Evaluating Superintendent Mittelstadt
- Sheriff’s contract and armed civilians in schools
- Impact fees
- School enrollment and the future of public education
- “Don’t say gay” and anti-woke bills
- Prayer in school.
- Background check
Place and Date of Birth: Daytona Beach, Jan. 12, 1976.
Current job: Business owner of Sun Country Pest Control and Chairman of the Flagler County School Board.
Net worth: Click here for financial disclosure form. A CV or bio was not provided.
Political affiliation (keeping in mind that school board races are non-partisan): Republican.
Websites and Social Media:
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, what examples illustrate how you yourself, as opposed to the board collectively, made a difference in enacting your vision in your previous years on the board? If you’re a challenger, what have you done to prepare, so that you’re ready from day one?
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 programs that enable students to easily find employment after leaving our district. I believe we are ahead on the academic side with the International Baccalaureate (IB) at FPC and ACE at Matanzas (the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education), dual enrollment, and AP or Advanced Placement 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, all decisions should be placed before the school board, not done by an individual board member. Due to trying to follow that procedure it is difficult for me as a board member to say that I have individually accomplished anything. I feel that I have brought forward procedures for the board to follow for transparency and a proper vetting process by pushing for a school board procedure manual and changing the workshops and meetings.
You were selected by your four colleagues as chairman for a second successive year last November because the board is especially divided, with you in the middle. To what extent has your ability to very capably balance that divide sometimes enabled deeper divisions you could have stopped, had you taken a more forceful stand sooner?
I do not know if I could have stopped a divide on the board. I believe the chair should not take a stance and vote last to be the tie breaker. I never want to silence or stop a board member from speaking unless they begin to repeat themselves. Ultimately, I think each board member should respect the view of other board members.
Sally Hunt, District 1
Jill Woolbright, District 1
Lance Alred, District 2
Will Furry, District 2
Courtney VandeBunte, District 2
Christy Chong, District 4
Leann Pennington, District 4
Janet McDonald, District 2
Greg Hansen, District 2
2. Who among school board members of the past 10 years or so do your most closely identify with, and why? Who in the world at large, and among the living, do you consider a role model of political or intellectual leadership?
I would consider myself first, then Andy Dance. I would consider Andy Dance because he always came to board meeting prepared with information for his point of view. I would consider John Mica as a role model. John Mica in my opinion was a humble public servant.
Note: John Mica served as a Florida congressman from 1993 to 2017, his district including much of Flagler for most of those years, until Flagler was districted out of his reach. The Republican was known for his constituent services, his frequent presence in the district, and his familiarity with local issues and officials. He also served in the Florida House from 1977 to 1981.
3. Candidates often have a list of things they plan to accomplish if elected. As one five board members, what is your understanding of the power of—and limitations on–an individual member, and how would you go about exercising this power and respecting its limits to accomplish specific goals?
School board members’ responsibilities are to set policies and oversee the financial obligations of the district. A school board member should not interfere with the day to day activities of the schools. If a member learns of policies that are being broken or not followed, then he or she should inform the superintendent to find out. If the superintendent does not satisfy that member, it should then become a topic for the whole board to discuss. On a day to day basis a school board member could visit schools and check to see if policy is being followed, or learn from the public concerns about the district. The member may speak on a day to day basis with anyone who would like to know what the district is doing. I will follow these practices and follow the school board operations manual.
4. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring (or have brought) 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 your last term? If you’re a challenger, apply the question to your work or civic involvement in recent years.
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. While serving as chairman I have made the mistake of letting meetings get out of hand. I should have cautioned the individuals attending the meeting that outbursts would not be tolerated in order to curtail disruption.
5. Finances are always a challenge. Let’s imagine that during the next term, the district will contend with the kind of recession it contended with between 2008 and 2010, when revenue fell sharply. What two or three program areas, aside from instruction, would you consider cutting, and what areas would you consider too critical?
I would not want to cut any programs but, take a percentage from each programs budget in order to make up the loss of revenue. I would not want to touch any academic program.
Can you cite examples?
Example of programs not required by law are art and music in elementary school. I would not want to take those away but, maybe limit the number of classes. Bus ridership within two miles is not required by law. I would ask the transportation department to make less stops and maybe lengthen the distance from schools of stops. Some of the classroom to career programs are not required, but I would not want to end what we have built, but cut back on the number of classes. The ACE and IB programs would also have to cut some of the classes. The strings program I would ask to scale back to less classes offered. None of these are ideal options, but they are specific. Hopefully we can build back a solid fund balance (reserve) in order for these things not to happen. These are specific examples, but there are more programs that could be cut if money is not available.
6. Setting aside Covid policies and procedures, what are the district’s three brightest successes and the three failures that affected students most in the past two to four years? 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 of the school district are: Getting the district to an A (before Covid), multiple acceleration opportunities (example IB, Ace, dual enrollment with DSC, UCF, and UF), and the full integration of technology into the district. Three failures of the school district are: Exceptional Student Education has not been adequate, leadership revolving door at the superintendent level, and lack of after school activities at the middle school level (especially with school ending early in afternoon).
You do not mention the flagship programs, which seemed to be on every school official’s lips for a few years. Have they lost their luster? The shortcomings of ESE and the revolving door in the superintendent’s suite would seem to be critical issues, but not especially hot topics of discussion in workshops, like more ideologically driven topics that, in the end, have much less to do with students’ immediate needs–like a solid ESE program. What has gone wrong there, and what is the board doing to address that?
I feel as a board we have failed to keep a superintendent over three years. It is either from personality conflicts or the board has not created a working environment conducive enough to retain leadership. My hope is if the superintendent is moving academic success forward she would stay in the leadership role.
Since I have been on the board, ESE has never been a success. I believe finding the right person to lead that department is key to its success. Unfortunately, that is not a board decision but, always left to the superintendent. I think our board and current administration recognize the failure of ESE and are attempting to address the problem.
7. This year, the district’s half-penny sales surtax expires. It’s on the November ballot. The district will seek to renew it for the third time for the next 10 years. It’s been in effect for 20 years. Evaluate its worth, explaining how you see where it’s paid off, how you see where it has not. Do you support its renewal, openly advocating for it on the campaign trail, and the focus areas for the next 10 years’ spending. Would you alter its scope in any way and fund different items?
Yes. I will support to renew the half penny sales tax. I did want to alter the scope of the funding to include technology, capital improvements and security. Unfortunately, if the verbiage changes too much, then it could not be a renewal. Also, the limitations do not allow for security that is not part of capital to be included.
The opportunity it provided for a more than less seamless transition to remote learning during Covid aside, where has it paid off, and where hasn’t it? Put another way: with what we’re increasingly learning about screen time, its relationship to bad behavior especially, is the district’s focus on technology still as well targeted or thought out as assumed five or 10 years ago?
I believe screen time used for academic purposes is beneficial. The article sighted even suggests that different types of screen time are worse than other types. I cannot find in the article where it says screen time for academic purposes is a problem. Writing and reading for academic purposes is quite different than watching TikTok videos that serve in my opinion nothing but entertainment. If a student is using technology for an academic purpose, I believe it will benefit that student when they begin their working career.
8. On July 1 Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt enters the third and, for now, final year of her current contract. Assuming you have followed the school board closely in preparation for your run (or are immersed in it as an incumbent), give us your evaluation of Mittlestadt as a leader, as an educational visionary and as an executive. Would you renew her contract? If yes, tell us on what terms. If not, tell us why. Along those lines, what is your experience and success in recruiting and hiring senior executives?
As of now I believe Cathy Mittelstadt is doing a good job. I do not know how I will vote in the future and do not want to say as that would be breaking the sunshine law (other board members may read this).
The Sunshine law is often misunderstood. It is never a prohibition on an elected official’s ability to speak or write freely, not even in memo form to fellow-elected officials, for example, certainly not in answer to questions in this or other forums, but to have exchanges with elected officials on the same board, outside of sunshine. Safe to say, that won’t be happening here. With that in mind, and without presuming to ask you something premature about future votes, can you elaborate on your concerns mentioned above regarding the revolving door in the executive offices, and how that informs your perception of the superintendent’s leadership?
Every time we get a new superintendent, it takes at least a year for the superintendent to know staff well enough to make adjustments. Also, it takes time for staff to trust the new superintendent. That first year usually does not move the district in a positive direction. This is not always the case as you could have an internal candidate that already knows staff. I will support a superintendent that is moving the academic success of the district forward. Our current superintendent has dealt with non-traditional learning in her first year as superintendent. I personally like her leadership style. I think as of next year, she can move our district toward to an A.
9. The County Commission through the sheriff pays for roughly half the cost of sheriff’s deputies in schools but it doesn’t have to: security is a district responsibility. Despite that, the school board has at times spoken of the growing financial burden of its share of the contract. What is your opinion of the district’s relationship and contract with the sheriff’s office? If arming staff as opposed to contracting with the sheriff is the more affordable way to go, would you? Alternately, would you be willing to arm civilians in addition to existing deputies, and if so, what sort of ratio of armed civilians per campus would you want, and how would that relieve the district’s financial costs of security? Going that route, do we risk over-weaponizing campuses?
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.
10. The Flagler Home Builders Association and the County Commission successfully blocked a doubling of school impact fees this year, scaling back the school board’s original plan. First, who pays impact fees? Second, do you think either the School Board was unreasonable in proposing its original impact fee schedule, or was the County Commission unreasonable to block it? Setting Florida’s strange statutory requirements aside in this regard, should the County Commission even have a say in ratifying or blocking the policies of a school board? Should home builders?
I do not think that the school board was unreasonable in our initial increase to the impact fee. Ultimately, a quality solution was made by making the impact fee increase when five hundred new students enroll in the school district. I believe this is the fairest solution for all parties involved. Being on the school board, I am biased and believe that the County Commission should not have a say in school board items, just as the County Commission probably does not want the school board to interfere in their operations. Ultimately, all government entities should work together for the benefit of their citizens. The County Commission and the school board worked together to find a quality compromise.
11. Flagler County’s population has grown substantially in the last decade and a half, from an estimated population of 89,000 in 2006 to 119,000 last year, according to UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Yet school enrollment has been remarkably flat since 2007. One reason is a big demographic shift as the proportion of older residents has grown while that of school-age residents has shrunk. The population grew by 33 percent. The 65-and-over population grew by 70 percent, from 21,400 people 65 and over to 36,500. Private, religious, virtual schools and home-schooling are also factors. What is the future of traditional public education in your view, and are Flagler schools doing enough to counter enrollment erosion from traditional public schools?
The best way to keep students from leaving public education, is make public education the best option. If public education is not the best education option then, families will send their children to better private schools or online schools. Flagler County Public Schools should consistently be an A district with, many opportunities for acceleration, and technical training.
Like the county’s population, the school-age population has increased, if not by the same proportion as older age groups, but why has the district’s population remained flat for, astoundingly, a decade and a half? Is traditional public education the best option in Flagler?
I believe traditional education in Flagler County is still the best option. As many parents have sent their children to either private, online, or home schooling; they would disagree with me. If the district can get to a consecutive A for multiple years, then I think many new families would move to our area, specifically for the school district.
12. Two of the more contested bills in the last legislative sessions were HB1557, at times referred to as the “don’t say gay” bill, which restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, and HB7, the so-called “anti-woke” bill, which restricts conversations about racism and sexism in schools. Residents now have the ability to sue the district when faced with allegations of infractions, and the district has to assume legal costs regardless. If you were to propose amendments or re-writes of the two laws at the next legislative session, what, if any, would those recommendations be?
The only thing I would change in HB 1557 would be to include any sex, and probably move the grades up to fourth. HB 7 I have no problem with the premise of the bill, but the wording is somewhat vague and I believe will lead to law suits. I do not know how to word the bill appropriately as I am not a lawyer. I am not a fan of the public being able to sue, without the district counter suing for attorney fees if the lawsuit is frivolous.
Your response regarding HB7 is surprising in light of your statement at a workshop last November: “I actually want every type of printed material possible. I’d like students to read everything and anything, whether I agree with it or not. The more someone reads, the more ideas you find, whether you agree with them or not. I just personally think that I do not like going down a road where I’m thinking about a library or media specialist or anybody saying, this is the list of books we can have, this is the list of books we can’t have. I hate that idea.” But the premise of the bill runs counter to that idea. Can you explain the contradiction?
I feel that the premise of HB 7 is to keep teachers from influencing children to ideas outside of the standards set by the state of Florida. The parts that are vague in the bill are phrases such as “prohibiting classroom instruction and curricula from being used to indoctrinate or persuade students in a manner inconsistent with certain principles or state academic standards”. The term “certain principles” confuses me and is not clear. I would like to know the principles and who is deciding what they are? I am waiting for DOE to send us a white paper in order to better understand that phrase. Another phrase that is not clear is “authorizing the department to seek input from a specified organization for certain purposes.” Why is the organization not spelled out if it is specified? This is the vague language that I do not understand. I do not feel this contradicts my previous statement as this bill in my opinion, is about classroom teaching and classroom curriculum and not library books. Students who read books, are not taught the material through class curricula, can form their own opinions from the book, not an idea thrust upon them in a classroom from teaching.
13. The U.S. Supreme Court has been especially friendly to the re-emergence of religious expression in public schools, or the erosions of restrictions on the use of public funds for parochial education, with more such decisions likely ahead, such as a test of the prayer-in-school standard that would go further than the Coach Kennedy case we saw this term. Do you favor a return to pre-Engle days, the 1962 decision that found school-sponsored prayer in schools unconstitutional even if participation is not required?
I believe that prayer in school should be allowed as long as the school is not sponsoring or making anyone participate. Prayer in school should not interfere with any student’s instruction or instructional time.
14. 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, or faced any investigative or disciplinary action through a professional board such as the bar or a medical board? Have you ever been demoted? If so, please explain, including cases where charges or claims did not lead to conviction or disciplinary action.
2022 Election Candidates, Flagler County
|County Commission District 2||Greg Hansen, incumbent (Rep)||Janet McDonald (Rep)||Denise Calderwood (Rep)|
|County Commission District 4||Joe Mullins, incumbent (Rep)||Leann Pennington (Rep)||Jane Gentile-Youd (NPA)|
|School Board District 1||Jill Woolbright, incumbent||Sally Hunt|
|School Board District 2||Lance Alred||Will Furry||Courtney VandeBunte|
|School Board District 4||Trevor Tucker, incumbent||Christy Chong|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 2||Theresa Carli Pontieri||Sims Jones||Shauna Kanter / Alan Lowe|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 4||Cathy heighter||Fernando Melendez|