Alachua County School Board, District 1

This race is nonpartisan, open to all voters

Two candidates are seeking this office. The race will appear on the August ballot open to all voters in the district.

News4Jax sent a questionnaire to each candidate asking about their background and their views on several issues. Scroll down to read the responses of those seeking your vote -- in their own words.

Note: Responses are sorted alphabetically and are presented exactly as submitted, with no editing by News4Jax staff.

  CANDIDATES

Tina Certain

Occupation: Accountant

Age: 54

Your family: married

Education: Bachelors in Accounting

Political experience: Elected 2018

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  1. Improving student performance is my focus
  2. Recruitment and retention of all staff: instructional and support,
  3. Operating district with decrease funding due to increase in vouchers which divert funding away from public schools

With input from our most loyal viewers, News4Jax asked each candidate additional questions to help voters determine which most agrees with their viewers:

“Parental rights” has recently become a law in Florida and a political buzzword. What does that concept mean to you and how would it affect your decisions on the school board?

  • There are policies in place to received parent and community input. In Alachua County there are 29,000+ students which means there at least 29,000 parents/guardians. No decision will please everyone so I will do my best to follow the law. I saw do my best because the law is very vague and clear guidance has not been shared with districts.

How would you balance new state laws and guidelines restricting how history, gender identity and civics can be taught in public school classrooms with the need to educate children in a complex 21st Century society?

  • I support the accurate teaching of historical facts and civics. I have not encountered The discussions around gender identity. It is my hope that the burden of policing and reporting young people doesn’t take away from instructional time.

Outline your ideas to address teacher shortages and morale.

  • Teachers are leaving the profession due to low pay and increased duties. To increase pay, advocating the legislature to stop imposing the roll back rate on the Required Local Effort so that districts will have funds to increase pay for teachers and support staff. Reviewing the budget to eliminate waste so that funds can be directed to increase pay. Some of things causing low morale are not under the control of board members, the legislature/governor are the source.

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

  • Being a native of the county, I have a lived perspective of what has gone well and not so well.

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

That I served with integrity and my focus was improving and expanding the educational opportunities for all students.

Campaign website: TinaCertain.com

Campaign’s social media site(s): Facebook - Tina Certain for School Board


Daniel Fisher

Occupation: Retired Air Force and current high school teacher

Age: 55

Your family: Sherrill, Abigail, Hannah, Caleb and Esther

Education: BS Embry Riddle Magna Cum Laude, MBA Golden Gate University w/Honors

Political experience: Neg

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  1. Restoring a welcoming and positive culture to the district so that we can retain and recruit top tier teachers, substitutes, bus drivers, and para-professionals.
  2. Low test scores, a widening achievement gap, and a learning gap.
  3. Engaging parents, families and community members in the future decisions regarding strategic planning and the health and wellness of our district.

With input from our most loyal viewers, News4Jax asked each candidate additional questions to help voters determine which most agrees with their viewers:

“Parental rights” has recently become a law in Florida and a political buzzword. What does that concept mean to you and how would it affect your decisions on the school board?

  • Parents do have rights, and we should honor them. Students belong to the parents, and we, as educators, are simply entrusted to educate them. Parents should have the majority say in the priorities of what their children are taught in regards to the teaching of the American culture that promotes effective citizenship. We cannot get 100% agreement on curriculum, books, or choosing between sports and music programs etc., but we can all agree that we want our kids’ reading, doing math and science on grade level. Our society has to accept that parents are the primary teachers of values and the education system is here to provide a quality education. The model works best when the parents and education system functions as a team

How would you balance new state laws and guidelines restricting how history, gender identity and civics can be taught in public school classrooms with the need to educate children in a complex 21st Century society?

  • Similar to the last question, we are complicating education with politics. Our district has not been able to get a majority of our students on grade level in the critical subjects of math, science, history and reading. Our priority should be to teach the Florida standards and get our children to grade level in the core subjects. The classroom should be a place where students learn how to think, not what to think! We can turn our district around if we return our focus to educating students.

Outline your ideas to address teacher shortages and morale.

The two most pressing issues, in my opinion, are Culture and Discipline. I was shocked when the teachers’ union stated 60+% of those surveyed would NOT recommend employment with the district. Both retention and recruitment are a direct reflection of leadership, and over the past few years some of the board members, along with the superintendent, allowed a toxic culture to grow and permeate throughout the district. We must reverse this trend and create a culture that is positive, welcoming and focused on excellence in student achievement.

I believe the best recruiters are current employees who love their jobs, are fulfilled in their jobs and who enjoy coming to work and being around coworkers. If we create a positive environment then retention and recruiting will begin to improve. I acknowledge that the problems in education are well documented and not isolated to Florida, but there is still plenty we can do to fix these issues locally.

We MUST address the poor conduct in the classrooms and on buses through better application and follow-through of discipline policies. Teachers don’t feel supported, and I am not confident the district even understands the full-scope of the problem. I have been to several board meetings about safety and discipline, and I have yet to see accurate and/or complete data on the problem. My experience has taught me that if the data is wrong, incomplete, or missing, then making correct decisions is all but impossible. Many parents and students are frustrated with the current board’s approach and I believe the district must make improving safety and discipline a priority.

In general, there are several things the district can do immediately to address some of our pressing problems. We can begin to celebrate our teachers and staff who are doing a great job in helping maintain good behavior while applying appropriate discipline. Let’s bring the high-performing teachers forward and share best practices. We should explore having our district staff help with our substitute shortage. Imagine the impact to our classrooms if even half of the district staff volunteered to substitute one day a month? Not only would this help with the shortage of substitutes, but as they stay better connected to the classrooms, the staff can stay sharp in their area of expertise. I promise if I am elected on Aug 23rd, I will be out in the schools, talking to teachers, principals and staff as we work to unify the district on the common goal of improving our schools and the academic outcomes.

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

I have years of leadership, management, and professional experience solving large, complex problems while leading large organizations with hundreds of employees. Leadership is about accepting responsibility for problems, and not wasting time, energy, and resources looking for others to blame.

I can bring a varied and diverse perspective to the district. It is a perspective that will allow us to take a fresh look at our problems and find creative and effective solutions. Being in the military for 28 years, I traveled and/or lived in over 10 countries and 46 states. This has afforded me a variety of perspectives on education, leadership, culture, and diversity. I am a leader that is comfortable with change and I look for innovative solutions to current problems.

I am currently a teacher and an adjunct business professor. I have taught high school, junior college, and university level students, and I see in real-time how high school graduates excel or struggle depending on their educational backgrounds. I have seen the tragedies and the triumphs, and we want the latter.

In addition, my military experience allowed me to see the importance of the trades. A vast majority of high school graduates will not go to college opting instead for careers in the trades, public service, first responders, and the military. An increase in focus on these students, will be money well invested.

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

  • That I was a problem solver that fixed some of our persistent problems. That we made significant gains with our students who have historically struggled with reading, math and science (Put the focus on early childhood education, expanding volunteer Prekindergarten (VPK), better funding exceptional student education (ESE) services, and focusing on K - 2 grade learning fundamentals). That we made our education process more enriching and effective for all students. Lastly, that I was able to work on a “Can-Do” team of leaders who put the sole focus of the district on students and their academic achievements.

Campaign website: votefisher.com

Campaign’s social media site(s): facebook.com/danielfisheracsb