Lynne Hirabayashi Chafee
Candidate's family: Proud mother of four children: Ashley, Joe, Jack, and Michael.
Occupation: Guardian ad Litem for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, Child Advocate Manager; Community Volunteer.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Virginia
Political experience: This is my first time running for office.
Summarize your political platform in 10 words or less.
Child advocate ensuring quality education for every Clay County student.
What do you see as the top three issues in this race?
1) School Safety:
The safety of our students, teachers, and staff is of the utmost importance for our school district. Everyone deserves to feel safe in the classroom and students MUST feel safe in the learning environment in order to be truly successful. It is incumbent upon our school district to ensure that our schools are hardened (i.e. fences, security cameras) to prevent a tragedy like the one in Parkland.
Although the governor set aside additional funding for our district to help provide increased security measures, it is simply not enough. Our School Board must prioritize funding for safety measures and should call upon the County Commission to help cover the costs of providing School Resource Officers at all of our schools. It is the job of the sheriff's office to protect our community and schools are an integral part of each neighborhood. As your School Board Member I will always fight for our students and schools, including their safety.
2) Public School Funding and the Budget:
One of the main responsibilities of any School Board in the State of Florida is to adopt a fiscally responsible budget and oversee the school district finances. As the largest employer in Clay County with a nearly $380 million budget, our School Board must always remember that it's your tax dollars at work.
A major issue currently facing Clay County is the recent growth of charter schools. While I am a supporter of parental choice with regard to their child's education, I do not believe charter schools that fail to offer anything new should be allowed to open in Clay County. Our newest charter school, which barely attained a 'C' letter grade this year, has cost the tax payers millions of dollars. If we didn't have charter schools we would be able to afford a School Resource Officer at every school immediately, instead of having to supplement with School Safety Officers.
Finally, I would work with my fellow School Board Members to fight against unfunded mandates from Tallahassee. It is a constant disappointment to see our county send our local tax dollars to Tallahassee, only for them to come back to us with strings attached. I believe our School Board should be responsible for administering our local tax dollars because local School Board Members are directly accountable to the local voters.
3) Increasing Student Opportunities:
As a School Board, it is our responsibility to put in place the programs and opportunities that will help students become successful adults. While our school district is recognized for its outstanding education programs and provides a number of accelerated and advanced options (i.e. IB and Cambridge-AICE Programs), we must also provide options for students who are not college-bound.
As a Board Member, I would work to expand our Career and Technical Education Programs throughout the county. We currently offer a number of unique programs that allow students to focus on a specific career path and earn certifications before graduation. Given the size of Clay County, I would like to see the district continue to expand CTE programs to additional high schools.
I would also work with my fellow Board Members to establish new options for parent choice within the public schools. I am excited that the district is launching a Montessori program at one of our elementary schools but with 42 schools, this is not enough. We should continue to create new choice programs such as performing arts schools, a STEM school, and other concept schools following the Orange Park Elementary model.
How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?
For my entire adult life I have been an advocate for children. Through my work with the Guardian ad Litem Program, I fight for the rights of abused, abandoned, and neglected children every day in court and throughout our community. As a mother, I have raised four children and am proud of the fact that my children attended public schools right here in Clay County. Not every candidate in this race can say that and it is troubling to me that a candidate would pull their kids from our public schools and still run for School Board.
As your School Board member, I will always prioritize the needs of our children. Our Board must ensure that teachers and staff have the resources they need to educate our children and prepare them to enter the workforce tomorrow. I have been helping children navigate through complex issues in their lives for my entire career and believe my experience makes me uniquely qualified for this position.
What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?
Although I never planned to go into politics, I truly believe my experiences working with children in multiple capacities would make me a strong School Board member. I would hope to be remembered for improving the lives and opportunities for Clay County's children. A major focus of mine would be to ensure that we are providing the necessary services to our most underprivileged students and looking at the whole child, not just the academic component. I would strive to increase our partnerships with public-private partners to provide mental health services and make sure that we have aides available to assist non-traditional students. Most importantly, I would hope to be remembered as a champion of public education who fights for the rights of all students.
Website: None found
Social media: Facebook
Ashley Gilhousen is a nonpartisan candidate running to represent District 5 on the Clay County School Board. She currently sits on the Clay County School Board, representing District 5.
This candidate has not responded to the News4Jax survey.
Campaign website: ashleygilhousen.com/