Incumbent Superintendent of Schools Ben Wortham is being challenged by Republican Charles Van Zant Jr.   Both are Republicans and there is no Democrat running, but the winner of the Aug. 14 Republican primary will appear on the November ballot because Fred S. Gottshalk qualified as a write-in candidate.

Read about the candidates:

Charles Van Zant Jr.

AGE:  41

FAMILY:  Wife, Stephanie; sons: Luke, 9, and Wyatt, 6

OCCUPATION:  Teacher; military officer, school board member

EDUCATION:  Graduate of Keystone Heights High School; graduate of University of Florida; graduate Command and General Staff College

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Clay County School Board, 14 years

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE TOP THREE ISSUES IN THIS RACE?

  1. "Reading on grade level in elementary school.
  2. "We must continue to build on a strong academic base with added emphasis on ‘graduation to jobs’ programs. The goal is for students to graduate with a diploma and also marketable jobs skills and certifications.
  3. "Community engagement. I will work to strengthen community partnerships with families, businesses and civic associations. I will always defend the constitutional rights of students and parents. If parents want to say a prayer with their student before they go to class they should have that right."

HOW CAN YOU HELP VOTERS IN A WAY THAT THE OTHERS RUNNING FOR THIS OFFICE CANNOT?

  • "I will bring experience and energy to the job with a strong vision for the future. We will prioritize, innovate, engage and empower. We will build on strong academic foundations and improve graduation to jobs programs. The goal will be to give students not just a diploma but job certification and skills, to give them a plan for their future."


WHAT WOULD YOU HOPE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR ACCOMPLISHING AFTER SERVING IN THIS OFFICE?

  • "I want to be remembered as the person who cared enough to take on a huge responsibility during challenging times. My legacy will be taking Clay County Schools into the highest level of academic achievement and job placement; while strengthening families by attracting businesses to our county and giving students an opportunity to work and live in the community where they were raised."

CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: CharlieVanZant.com

Ben Wortham

AGE:  67

FAMILY:  Married to Sylvia for 38 years; 4 daughters; 11 grandchildren

OCCUPATION:  Current superintendent of schools, Clay County

EDUCATION:  Post-graduate studies, University of Florida; Masters in education, University of Memphis; B.S., University of Tennessee

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE:  "Other than running for Superintendent of Schools in 2008 and now re-election, I have no political experience. I have over 40 years of education experience. I am an educator and not a politician."

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE TOP THREE ISSUES IN THIS RACE?

  1. "One matter of significant importance in this race is the experience and qualifications of the candidates. As your current Superintendent of Schools, I provide the proven leadership needed to ensure the continued success of our schools and our district. Our children are facing new academic standards and new highly rigorous graduation requirements. Having served Clay County as a teacher, principal, district administrator and deputy superintendent before being elected as Superintendent of Schools in 2008, I understand these challenges and have implemented innovative programs to make certain the individual needs of each child are met. The mission of the Clay County Schools is to ensure that each child graduates from high school ready to enter college and/or the workforce in a field of his/her choosing. I have led the expansion of our Career and Technical Education programs and academies which offer students the specific skills and knowledge needed to be competitive in our global and competitive job market. I have worked to create a long-term plan for the expansion of these programs including for the upcoming school year, the addition of an International Business and Logistics Academy, a dual-enrollment program for aviation in collaboration with Cecil Field and an Animal Bio-Technology Program at Oakleaf High School.
  2. "Because my opponents have no relevant experience or qualifications to serve as Superintendent of Schools, they have strategically attempted to keep the focus on one issue aimed at distracting voters from the matters that would otherwise focus us on improving our current 'High Performing School District'.
    "While some would want voters to believe that the issue is about school prayer, the real issue is about defending student safety as well as their right and the rights of our teachers and parents to pray on our school campuses. For over 20 years, our students, along with others across the nation have gathered annually for the student-led prayer rallies known as 'See you at the Pole'. The prayer gathering has been affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. Student-led prayer is valuable and needed. We cannot afford to risk our students losing this Constitutional, and in my opinion God-given right. As Superintendent of Clay County Schools, rest assured that I have and will continue to stand with our children and fight for their rights to pray as well as all other rights and Constitutional freedoms. In addition, I am confident that under my continued leadership, we as a school community will unify on this important issue and our students will be safe, secure and successful.
  3. The experience to ensure that our district remains ready to tackle the continue challenges resulting from inadequate school funding is another critical issue in this race. With our Chief Financial Officer retiring this October, my experience and knowledge of school funding and budgeting is vital to keep our district in financial compliance and our schools and programs operational.

HOW CAN YOU HELP VOTERS IN A WAY THAT THE OTHERS RUNNING FOR THIS OFFICE CANNOT?

  • "I have a proven record of improving our schools. I can provide voters the confidence and commitment that our district’s trend of academic excellence will continue for the next four years.
    "During my tenure as Superintendent of Schools we have accomplished the following:
    · Designated as an “Academically High Performing School District” in 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008;
    · Clay County School District ranks 12th in Florida out of 67 districts and 13th in 2011, the first year the state first ranked school districts;
    · A 94 percent graduation rate in 2011 compared to the state’s average of 80 percent in 2011;
    · 97 percent of our schools received an “A” or “B” in 2012 and 2011; 95 percent “A” or “B”, 2010, 89 percent grade “A” or “B” in 2008 when I took office.

WHAT WOULD YOU HOPE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR ACCOMPLISHING AFTER SERVING IN THIS OFFICE?

  • "I will be remembered as the superintendent who moved Clay County Schools to one of the top 10 districts in the State of Florida. I also will be the superintendent who improved our high school graduation rate significantly increasing from 76 percent in 2008 to a rate of 93 percent in 2011 and maintained a high graduation rate in spite of rising graduation requirements. I hope to be remembered as a leader who made each decision, no matter how difficult or unpopular, because it was the best choice for our children. I hope to be remembered as the superintendent who made a difference in the life of each child."

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE:   BenWortham2012.com