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Florida Votes 2016: Suwannee County Schools Superintendent

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Come Nov. 8, the people of Suwannee County will have to elect a new school superintendent.

The race is between three candidates:Republican Ted Roush,Democrat Julie Blake Ulmer, and independent Dianne Westcott.

Republican candidate Ted Roush has 21 years total of experience with 18 years of administrative experience. He’s not just concerned for the students, but also the teachers.

“I’ll be the first to say, being married to a teacher that I don’t believe teachers get paid truly what they’re worth,” he said. “They really deserve a lot more.”

None of the candidates have any group endorsements, but Roush said that doesn’t matter.

“The constituency, the people that I’ve spoken to, homes that I’ve visited and been invited into to meet with groups of people and certainly the broad based support that I’ve received through feedback from staff to me personally is a huge endorsement enough and humbling.”

Democrat Julie Ulmer also said she believes her background in education, as well as business, makes her the right fit for the superintendent.

“My experience as a classroom teacher and in the business world as financial manager of Ulmer Construction gives me a very diverse background and all of those things come into play with the superintendent. It’s not just about one classroom, one school, it’s about all of our schools.”

If elected, she believes she can bring fresh ideas to improve the graduation rate.

“We need to look at our middle school population and really get them involved in some of our academies and career and technical programs that we have at the high school to get them engaged and make sure that they want to stay in school and graduate. We definitely have room for improvement and I think we’re headed in the right direction with some of the things we’re doing now, but we need to bring on some new ideas as well.”

Westcott has the most years of experience as an educator.

“I’ve been in education for about 37 years, and for 18 years I’ve lived and worked in Suwannee County. I am very concerned about us being a ‘C district’ and that 60 percent of our students are below grade level. You can’t be an ‘A district’ if you’re leaving behind students.”

During her time with the department of education, she was privileged to be in the room when Common Core was voted on, and it’s something about which she feels passionately.

“When it first came in, it was an absolute good idea based on solid research. The problem is, we let the government touch it. When they started touching it, you shouldn’t let government interfere with education,” she said.

This story is part of our guide, Florida Votes 2016, leading up to the Nov. 8 election. Check your voter registration status here.

About Ariane Guinhouya

Ashlyn is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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