72ºF

Duval County School Board, District 1

District 1 covers northern Arlington and the northeast corner of Jacksonville

photo

Four of seven seats on the Duval County School Board are up for election this year. These are nonpartisan races that will appear on the August primary ballot and if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the two with the most votes will face off in November.

Kelly Coker, Kory Von Leue and Lew A. Welge are running in District 1, which covers northern Arlington and the northeast corner of Duval County.

Scroll down to read each candidate’s responses to News4Jax’s questionnaire, presented verbatim as submitted.

  DUVAL COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, DISTRICT 1

Kelly Coker

Party affiliation: NonPartisan Election

Age: 51

Candidate’s family: I am a 4th generation Jacksonville native who has lived in School District 1 my entire life. My husband of 27 years and I continue to live in the neighborhood where I grew up. We are the proud parents of a daughter who recently graduated from Duval County Public Schools and now attends the University of Virginia.

Occupation: Educator (Retired)

Education: Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership

Political experience: First time running for public office.

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

If elected the three priorities I will champion are as follows:

  • Focus on Reading: Strong reading skills remain one of the greatest predictors of a child's success both in the classroom and later in life. If elected, I will make certain that the school district provides a comprehensive reading program that ensures every child has an opportunity to be a successful reader at each grade level.
  • Prepare Students for the Workforce: Working with local business leaders, I will advocate for programs aligned with local workforce needs. This will ensure that every child who elects to go straight into the workforce upon graduation will be prepared for success.
  • Ensure Taxpayer Dollar Transparency: As a 1.7 billion dollar organization it is imperative that the school district exercise financial responsibility and accountability. As a Board Member, I will ensure school funding that best supports students, teachers and school leaders in a cost-effective manner.

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

To increase the reading skills of our children, prepare students for the workforce, or to ensure taxpayer dollar transparency will require experience and a strong background working with schools, teachers, parents, community and children at all levels. From my 27 years spent as an educator in our city - rising from a first-year social studies teacher, to principal, to region superintendent, and, most recently, to assistant superintendent - I have worked at all levels within our school districts and have the first-hand knowledge to get things accomplished. Even as I held leadership positions, I remained at heart a teacher and always focused my efforts on improving educational experiences for our students.

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

It is my life’s passion to provide children across our city the best education possible - I can think of nothing more rewarding than to be remembered for this.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

I am a firm believer that collaborative work brings about the most effective solutions. When faced with an issue as challenging as racial justice, the most important thing a leader can do is bring those who will be impacted by the issue to the table to be a part of creating the solution. This is something that I have a long history of doing as a leader in Duval County Public Schools. Whether I was working with parents, teachers, community leaders, or students, I believed in listening to solutions from a variety of perspectives before making a decision that would impact those around me. In dealing with issues as they relate to racial justice, I would want to work collaboratively with the constituents in District 1 and other districts to develop policies which move our school district forward.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

As we look to the opening of school in August, COVID-19 is an incredibly pressing issue. It is my belief that the leadership of our school district must use the guidance of respected medical organizations to develop parental options for attending school that will best protect our teachers, students, and other workers within the school district. Parental options for attending school should be developed which meet the considerations provided by respected medical organizations and incorporate feedback from the parents of the students who will be enrolled in the school district for this coming school year.

Campaign website: votecoker.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook


Kory Von Leue

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 40

Candidate’s family: Married for 19 years with two sons that attend our neighborhood schools

Occupation: Teacher

Education: Bachelors in Sociology and Political Science (2009) Jacksonville University, Masters of Public Policy (2021) Jacksonville University

Political experience: volunteer with several campaigns.

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

  1. Support and Passage of the capital infrastructure 1/2 cent sales tax: The first step in creating equitable schools is to invest in the schools that provide ease of access for our students and families. Distance and logistics should not be a barrier to realizing the best quality education. The quality of the school building should not be a barrier for students to realize their hopes and dreams. In order to reestablish neighborhood schools as the jewel of the community, which will build pride and access for our must under-represented neighborhoods, we must invest in the schools and our future.
  2. Leaders and Teachers: The second step in creating equitable schools is to invest in the leaders and teachers of Duval County Schools. Research has proven that the number one predictor of a student’s success is the quality of the teacher. Students who receive instruction from high quality teachers do better. The primary priority of our school district should be to attract, train, retain, and empower high quality teachers. Surveys have shown that outside of salary, the leading request among teachers is support, coaching, and feedback from their leaders. We have a teacher and leader shortage that we in Duval County can combat by investing in the people that have the greatest amount of contact and influence on students.
  3. Partners and Stakeholders: Covid-19 has brought to our attention that we can’t continue to operate business as usual. The future of schools and education as we know it will be different. Things must change to keep students and teachers safe and successful. A one size fits all approach does not meet the needs of most of our families. We must think outside of the box and determine different ways to reach our families. There are several innovative educational organizations that we should build stronger relationships with. Together we can work to build a better system of public-school options for our students and families. A mindset shift from one system to a tapestry of systems that are publicly funded in order to provide all students with quality options. In a rapidly changing world, our strength will come from our partnerships with the community, leaders in education innovation and technology.

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

I will bring several key characteristics to the board.

Zest: As we move to mobilize excitement and enthusiasm around the 1/2 cent sales tax, I will be a champion of untethered excitement to help garner support. Zest is written right into my signature and campaign.

Innovation: I have been partnered with several innovative local and national organizations that support education and communities. I’ve worked with Teach for America, KIPP, Leadership for Educational Equity, Jacksonville Public Education Fund, JCCI, and the Public Policy Institute. All of these organizations have put innovative approaches to teaching and learning or community outreach at the center of their work. I will continue to work with these organizations to bring cutting edge ideas and approaches to improve our schools and stakeholder relationships.

Parent and Teacher / Leader Lens: I am currently a teacher. I’ve been a principal. I am a student of public policy. And most importantly, I’m a parent of two students that are attending our local neighborhood schools. I promise to not impose on students and families what I am not willing to impose on my sons and family. I understand the pressures of teaching, leading and parenting. I will bring all of my lived experience and education expertise to the table to ensure public policy is equitable and accessible to the families of Duval County.

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

I hope that after serving as a School Board member, our schools will be recognized for their innovative approach to reaching all students and providing equitable experiences. I want to have a system of schools where all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to achieve their hopes and dreams, regardless of zip code or neighborhood. I hope that I am remembered as a leader who listened to even the most underrepresented and worked with students and families to provide them with the opportunities they need to make a life fulfilled.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

As a member of the school board I will call for and support the renaming of schools named after Confederate Leaders. I will interrupt policies that lead to the over policing of students and contributes to the school to prison pipeline. I will instead invest in unconscious bias training, mental health counselors, and restorative justice in place of punishment and exclusion.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

Covid-19 has upended the normal logistics of running schools, running households, and running life. It has replaced our lives with a new normal. Safety and security are now top of mind for all students and families. As a teacher, I saw first-hand how disrupting the closure of the schools have been. Because of the lack of access, skill, or adult availability, about half of my students were unable to complete the daily requirements of online learning. As a parent, especially of a first grader, between my wife and I, we had to sit down and show him and encourage his participation in the online learning. You don't just tell a six-year old to go log on.

One thing has become crystal clear to me through this quarantine process, school houses play a critical role in removing barriers to learning and providing an equitable place to learn. We have to have schools open and we need to maintain safety. Starting up school and then closing them down again will cause almost a whole year of learning loss for all students, especially those most vulnerable.

Campaign website: votevonleue.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Lew A. Welge

Party affiliation: Nonpartisan

Age: 65

Candidate’s family: Nancy Reid Welge, Spouse; Two grown sons: Ryan and Lew Andrew “Drew” Welge, II, both Atlanta area Residents

Occupation: Retired from 18 Years as a Florida Public Schools Guidance Counselor

Education: Hayfield Secondary School Diploma, May, 1973 (Northern Virginia); B.S. in Religious Studies, w/ Asian Emphasis from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., May ’77; Master of Education & Educational Specialist degrees from the University of Florida, December 17, 1983; Intermediate Spanish at Daytona Beach State College, May ’92; post-graduate Coursework at Rollins College’s Titusville campus ’94; and at UF from August ’04 to July ’07.

Political experience: No Elective Office Holding. I’ve been an Active Registered Voter continually since the age of 18 beginning in the Commonwealth of Virginia, however.

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

  1. Honesty
  2. Leadership
  3. Lifelong Learning

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

As a well-trained and amply experienced Counselor whose literal #MissionStatement continues to be "To Helper People Feel Better about Themselves and to Get Along Better with Others" (ref. UF Professor Emeritus Robert "Bob" Myrick), my physical "Presence," knowledge of organizational/managerial and Relationship-Teaching skills, Work Ethic, and overall salubrious "Influence" makes me the preferred Better Candidate of Choice.

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

Ha! "Lew's legacy" has a nice ring to it. And seriously, bringing the principle of integrity/honesty to the forefront for those in elective office, promoting NEARLY altruistic "Public Service," that's what I wish to be remembered for.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

I'd emphasize the concept of #AntiRacism.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

It prevented my qualifying to run via the Petition Method, and it will continue to require adaptable flexibility of varying degrees from All DCSB Stakeholders #MovingForward.

Campaign website: lewwelge.com

Campaign’s social media pages: I’ve 3 Facebook Accounts, 2 on Twitter, maybe 2, but at least one on Instagram, YouTube, & WordPress, and a MeWe and TheNation.com accounts. Look 4 Me!


The Jacksonville Public Education Fund hosted virtual candidate forums for each of the School Board races. District 1′s forum was co-hosted by News4Jax anchor Melanie Lawson. Watch below.

School Board Candidate Forum District 1 - Arlington & Northeast Jacksonville

Thank you for joining our District 1 School Board Candidate Forum with Kelly Coker, Kory Von Leue and Lew A. Welge. This district represents Arlington & Northeast Jacksonville. The primary election is on August 18 - get details on how to vote at jaxpef.org/school-board.

Posted by Jacksonville Public Education Fund on Monday, July 13, 2020