Candidates Sarah Rockwell and Ray Holt Jr. are running to replace the term-limited Gunnar Paulson for the Alachua County School Board District 3 seat.
Paulson has served a total of 12 years, making him ineligible to run again under state law.
Rockwell is a former special education teacher. She has focused her campaign on improving reading skills and ensuring teachers are paid well.
“They’re not being compensated well and we have limited wiggle room in our district’s budget to fix that but we do have the reauthorization of the one mil coming up which currently doesn’t allow us to fund teacher’s salaries and so that’s something we can change we can make sure that in the future we can fund teacher’s salaries with that money,” she said.
Holt has a degree in public administration and has worked for a foster care organization’s curriculum department. He agrees with Rockwell on supporting teachers but wants to look at how the salary system is structured.
“We’re losing a lot of our good teachers. It’s a bad work environment,” he said. “The salary structure does not promote keeping them beyond 5 to 7 years. A lot of them are leaving, so we’re losing our best teachers.”
Finding a new superintendent is important to both candidates as well. The previous one, Carlee Simon, was fired earlier this year.
Holt said this should be the board’s first priority once the new members are sworn in.
“We owe it to everyone to start right away doing the work of getting our community input, talk to all the stakeholders in our community and do a nationwide search for the best and the brightest,” he said. “And that may end up with us hiring current temporary Shane Andrew. I’ve heard great things about him.”
“I think Shane Andrew is a very solid interim superintendent and I think that it’s important that we let him run things while we take the time to do a proper search with community input from families, from teachers, from other employees, from building level administration. We need to do this right,” she said.
The money involved in the race has caught people’s attention.
Holt has raised over $34,000 and spent about $29,000, according to campaign finance reports. Rockwell has outpaced him, raising $54,000 and spending $30,000.
Combined, that’s nearly $90,000 to help decide who will next serve District 3, which encompasses most of the cities of Alachua and High Springs and the surrounding areas.