Janice Kerekes

Candidate for Clay County School Board District 1

Age: 52

Family: Married 29 years to my husband Mike. We have three boys: Michael, David, and Jamel.

Occupation: Current Clay County School Board Member, District 1; Nonprofit Board Member and Fundraiser; Community Volunteer

Education: Suffolk County Community College

Political Experience: Current Clay County School Board Member, District 1; Federated Republican Women of Clay, Vice President; Republican Executive Committee Precinct Committeewoman; Appointed Board Member, Clay County School Board Academic Calendar Committee

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  1. The Budget:
    I believe that the budget, and our School District's financial health, is the number one issue confronting our School Board today. We must continue to be fiscally prudent and questions where every dollar is spent. It is part of our core mission to be responsible stewards of public funds and to be fully accountable for how and what we spend them on.

    As a School Board member, I have called out wasteful spending and diverted funds from nonessential items back into the classroom. I supported legislation that required our senior staff members to trim within their departments in an effort to grow our fund reserves. I have always placed a priority on the classroom and believe that we must continue to make cuts to nonessential services.

    A final aspect of protecting our budget is continuing to lobby Tallahassee for more direct control over our money. The sad fact is that much of our money comes back to us from the state and federal government with strings attached. Unfunded mandates put restrictions on our budget and worsen an already tough situation. We must continue to lobby our federal and state elected officials for more flexibility with our tax dollars. The question is ‘who should be educating our kids?' I believe we should be making decisions at the local level about how and where we spend our money.

  2. The Graduation Rate:

    Nearly a quarter of our students are not graduating from high school. This is unacceptable. During my short time on our School Board, we have already expanded our Career and Technical Education programs to include new career tracks at new schools. These types of programs, along with other alternative education options such as the Clay Virtual Academy, will allow students to tailor their educational path to meet their specific goals. Every student deserves the opportunity to succeed. We must identify and expand the programs that will help retain students.

    Not all students will seek post-secondary education. This is where our Career and Technical Education Program ties into the goal of increasing every student's chance of graduating. If students are dropping out to pursue vocational jobs such as roofing, carpentry, auto mechanic or electricians, then we must offer them programs in which they can learn these trades and graduate with the certifications and licenses necessary to enter the workforce. Continuing to expand our Career and Technical Education Program is a major part of my vision for our School District.

  3. School Safety:

    As a School Board member I have voted to increase funding for school security. We have currently installed security systems in all of our high schools, however I believe they should also be installed in all elementary schools and junior high schools. Additionally, I would like to see all of our school buses equipped with video cameras to protect both students and bus drivers.

    In the future, as more students are allowed to bring their own electronic devices into the classroom, our School Board will need to develop policies to protect students from online threats such as sexual predators and cyber bullying. We must upgrade our use of technology in order to improve student safety online.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

For the five years prior to my election to our School Board, I attended all School Board meetings as a private citizen. I feel we need someone who is available fulltime and who is willing to make serving on our School Board his or her fulltime job. I understand the issues and am willing to make tough decisions. Sometimes I'm on the losing side of a vote, sometimes the prevailing side, but I will always vote for what is right for all of our children in Clay County.

In addition to my leadership experience and my background working within our school system, as well as the various nonprofits and child-advocacy groups I am a part of, I am the only candidate in this race who is willing and able to commit my full attention to our School Board. Serving on the Clay County School Board is not a stepping-stone to a future goal; this is my goal. Everything I have worked for up to this point has prepared me for this role.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

Being remembered for my accomplishments is not, nor has it ever been my goal. My goal is, and will always be, to put Children First. I will know that I have been successful if I am able to help improve our graduation rate. Part of this goal is to continue expanding our Career and Technical Education Programs for the students that are not college bound. We must realize that not every student will attend college; alternative programs can help all of our students be successful and prepare for successful careers. The other part of this goal is to ensure that we are graduating well-rounded students. This means keeping music and art in all of our elementary schools. These are essential components in developing our next generation.