Duval County School Board, District 3

District 3 covers San Marco and part of Jackonville's Southside

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.

Robert Abene, Chris Guerrieri, James Jacobs and Cindy Pearson are running in District 3, which covers San Marco and part of Southside.

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

Robert Abene

Party affiliation: Nonpartisan

Age: Not an appropriate question.

Candidate’s family: My wife. Patricia, my son Andrew, and my cat Justice Jack

Occupation: For 40 years, an Educator

Education: BS (Psychology &Natural Sciences

Political experience: I have been an Officer at various times in both the Democratic and the Republican Parties

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

  • With COVID-19 on the rise, to have the best educational options available that keep the students, teachers, and all in contact with them safe.The best one now appears to be on-line. And for post-pandemic:
  • To obtain a Board member who has both the in-classroom teaching and the strong educational leadership experience to give oversight to strengthen and enhance the school buildings and programs for all students.
  • To obtain the funding to reduce overcrowded classrooms and modernize buildings, greatly increase needed professional and trade apprenticeships, increase school personnel and programs for special needs students, and other needs.
  • Stand strong against further financing the rapidly increasing Charter Schools who have no accountability to the Duval School Board

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

With my diverse educational experience and leadership ability to work with many different interests, communities, and government leaders, I plan on working hand in hand with fellow teachers, parents, the community, and the students we serve to obtain the needed support to innovate our Public Schools and their programs. This is not an easy task what what I have learned, and other candidates may learn in time how to successfully pursue this; but our Public Schools, students, and teachers should not have to keep waiting and fall into the trap I hear too often of: "it's always been and will continue to be this way".

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

That I successfully stood behind and strongly pursued the diverse and most important needs presented to me by the students, teachers, and school personnel. Since I believe this will only occur if these groups of individuals experience my presence working with them on their needs and issues, I will treat my Board position in the same full time manner as when I was a full time teacher, administrator, or president.

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

As l heard one wise individual recently say: "If you don't believe that black lives matter, you probably don't really believe that any lives matter but your own". My graduate and doctoral education in counseling and educational administration has certainly helped me to listen to the needs and concerns of many diverse groups and individuals. My upbringing, values, and religion has also taught me to strongly pursue the issue of justice for all, as well as conflict resolution. Again, I really appreciate my life-long experiences which will be extremely helpful and needed for enhancing successful outcomes in this complex position.

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

As stated in an earlier question, this must be the first issue to best resolve for the current increasing pandemic impacting all of us. The safety, health, and well-being of our students, teachers, school personnel and all who come in contact with them must take precedence. It is made more challenging when some government officials appear to state and believe that in-person teaching within the classroom should be the precedence. As I have with other serious challenges in the past, I would not loose sight of what is the right thing to do to promote safety, stand strong in this matter, and with community backing keep helping those who stand in the way of what is right to move closer and closer to that conclusion. In this situation, having been a former pre-med student who worked as a respiratory therapist for a needed time and saw how fast a virus can spread, will help my position in this matter.

Campaign website: bob4duvalschoolboard.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook

Chris Guerrieri

Party affiliation: Democrat though the race is NOP

Age: 51

Candidate’s family: Wife Julia Furber, 4 fur babies, Grrl, Rosy, Elle, and Penny

Occupation: Teacher

Education: Bachelors degrees in Political Science and Psychology

Political experience: None

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

  • Keeping staff and students safe during the pandemic
  • Securing funding for our schools
  • Electing pro-education candidates to races other than the school board so we can have a body in Tallahassee that supports rather than tries to harm public ed.

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

I do a blog Education Matters, www.jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com that routinely gets thousands of views in a day. This puts me in a unique position to bring long-overdue information and transparency to the city. I am also a long time local education activist as well as being a teacher which gives me a first-hand perspective to the problems in the district and the system. I grew up in District 5, teach in District 6, and live in District 3 which gives the personal experience to excel. Finally, I am willing to question anybody, from the mayor to the super to the governor, and when I think they have been wrong speak up about it. I won't need the time to find my way, I will hit the ground running.

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

I want people to say, gosh that guy worked hard, made a difference, and no problem was too big or too small that he wouldn't tackle it.

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

I have advocated for improved conditions for our children of color for years in not just my Blog Education Matters but the Florida Times-Union and Folio as well. I would continue to call for changing the names of schools named after Confederate Era figures, as well as advocate for increased funding and fight against the privatization of the schools in our neighborhoods of color.

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

We have to keep staff and students safe and that has to be our top priority. Then we have to figure out how to provide a quality education and balance the needs of the community. The task is daunting but doable.

Campaign website: mrgfordistrict3.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Twitter.com | Facebook

James Jacobs

This candidate has not responded to our News4Jax candidate survey.

Cindy Pearson

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 50

Candidate’s family: I have been married for 26 years and have three children who attend DCPS schools.

Occupation: Ministry

Education: Graduate, Wolfson High School; BA in English, Florida State University; MA in Recreational Studies, University of Florida

Political experience: This is my first time as a candidate.

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

Aside from the ongoing issue of responding to COVID-19, I support:

  • Overseeing the implementation of the DCPS plan for safety and infrastructure repairs
  • Strengthening neighborhood schools so that all residents have pathways to elementary, middle and high schools that serve their communities well
  • Collaborating with public, private, professional organizations and not-for-profit partners to ensure that students are ready to learn and teachers can focus on instruction

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

As a parent of three students in Duval public schools, I understand issues from parent and student perspective. My background as a school volunteer has taught me that we need to build broad coalitions of people who can invest in our schools. The issues that we face are complicated and require many voices speaking into the solutions.

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

I would like to see Duval County become known as a place with strong pathways of neighborhood schools in all communities. I would like for students in all neighborhoods to feel proud of their schools and parents to feel good about their options.

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

While we have a number of effective schools, I think that we need to look at how to produce a better school product for all Duval County residents.

-I have been an outspoken supporter of the half-penny sales tax referendum. My understanding is that one objective of the plan is to address inequities in facilities that go back decades.

-I would like to see all families have pathways of good public school options within their neighborhoods from elementary to middle to high school. We need to take a hard look at our middle school options.

-I would like to explore expanded vocational education in high schools so that graduating seniors who do not choose college or military service have options for high paying jobs.

-I would like to focus on improving literacy in grades K-3 so that students have a better chance of success as they progress in school.

-I would like to see partnerships with recreation and youth sports providers to expand after school options for students.

-I would like to see more support staff in schools where teachers need help with behavior issues that can distract or cause safety issues for other students.

-I plan to travel to Tallahassee during the legislative session to press for increased funding for public schools, especially those in transition or labeled "turnaround" schools.

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

The current School Board will set the policy to get students and teachers back to school. The next Board will be responding to new information and new directives for the next two years, perhaps. The challenge will be how to balance guarding the physical safety of students, school staff and families with providing a meaningful education that addresses students' academic, social and emotional needs.

Campaign website: votecindypearson.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund hosted virtual candidate forums for each of the School Board races. Watch the District 3′s forum below.

School Board Candidate Forum District 3

Learn more about the candidates for School Board District 3, representing San Marco, the Southside and Atlantic and Beach Blvds. The candidates for this race are Bob Abene, Chris Guerrieri, James Jacobs and Cindy Pearson. Learn more at jaxpef.org/school-board.

Posted by Jacksonville Public Education Fund on Tuesday, July 14, 2020