Columbia County School Board, District 5

Race is nonpartisan, open to all voters

The only contested race for the Columbia County School Board this cycle is a three-way race in District 5. Hunter Peeler and Elizabeth Porter got the most votes in the August primary but neither got more than 50% of the vote, so they will face off in a runoff on the November ballot.

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: Candidates are sorted alphabetically and are their responses are presented exactly as submitted, with no editing by News4Jax staff.


Hunter Peeler

This candidate has not responded to email and telephone invitations to submit the News4Jax candidate questionnaire.

Elizabeth Porter

Occupation: Intern & Outreach Specialist, Florida Virtual School

Age: 57

Your family: Husband-Andrew Porter (36 yrs), daughter-Erin Porter Benz (26), son-Andrew O. Porter (22), three grandchildren-Greyson, Anniston & Atlas Benz

Education: Columbia High School-1982, A.A. Degree,Lake City Community College (FGC)-1984, Bachelor’s Degree, FSU-1987

Political experience: Florida House of Representatives, 2010-2018; Columbia County Commission 2004-2008

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

  1. School safety
  2. Teacher pay funding/School funding
  3. New technology & training in the classroom

News4Jax asked each candidate three additional questions to help voters determine which most agrees with their views:

“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?

  • Parental rights is the concept that parents have a right to be involved in, have open access to curriculum being taught to students in the district, and to be heard in a public forum (i.e. school board meetings) without censorship or bias. As a member of the Columbia County School Board, I would sincerely abide by state law as it pertains to recently passed Parental Rights legislation.

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 believe that our district first needs to abide by state laws regarding the above mentioned topics, and second, as long as we concentrate on educating our students in a factual, classical liberal education (grammar, logic, mathematics, geometry, science, language arts, history, civics, classical literature, music) then we are fulfilling our job of educating the students without usurping the authority of the family/parents to raise their own children in matters of morals, religion, etc.

Outline your ideas to address teacher shortages and morale.

*Continue to work towards fulfilling the promise to raise starting teacher compensation to the minimum of $47,000, while also working hard to minimize or eliminate the salary compression experienced by teachers that have been employed for years that are making less than or equal to that beginning salary.

*Look for ways to add value to the teaching positions other than direct compensation, such as benefits, tuition for continuing education, work-life balance, etc.

*Ensure that we are supporting our teachers in the classroom, from technology training to classroom management training to teacher support.

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

* I served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives. I served, at various points of my tenure, as Vice-Chair of Education Committee, Vice-Chair of Education Appropriations Committee, Chair of Higher Education and Workforce Sub-Committee, Education Innovation Sub-Committee, State Appropriations Committee (the full state of Florida budget, $88.7 billion during my tenure), and Higher Education Appropriations Sub-Committee. These committee assignments gave me an extremely deep understanding of how our public education system in the state of Florida works and the funding mechanisms at both the state and local level, including the processes required to attain state funding for the district.

*Before I served in the state legislature, I served on the Columbia County Commission, again having not just observed, but participated in the local legislative decision-making and budget process ($32.8 million during my tenure).

*I have worked for multiple Fortune 100 companies over the extent of my career such as Procter & Gamble, Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals, Nestle, Carnation, etc., in management positions encompassing up to 14 states and 100+ employees and the corresponding budgets within those positions. Again, I am intimately acquainted with management and budget processes on a very large scale.

*I currently work at Florida Virtual School (FLVS), one of the largest public-school districts in the state of Florida. I am the Internship and Outreach Specialist and work closely with the Florida Department of Education, other Florida public school districts, state colleges, state universities, educational organizations/associations and internship programs around the state, and beyond.

*My husband and my daughter are both teachers at Columbia High School. I hear daily of the comprehensive challenges and achievements that teachers and students experience in our local school system. In addition, I have numerous other close family members and friends that work for the district and grandchildren, grand-nieces and grand-nephews and multitudes of friend’s children attending schools in our District. I am profoundly invested in our schools at so many levels and I have unique, multi-level experience in traditional public schools, public charter schools, and public and private state colleges and universities.

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

  • I would hope to have it said about me that I balanced the needs of students, teachers, parents, and administrators fairly and equally, and that I used all my experience to benefit the students and the district to result in measurable improvements to students overall education so that they were prepared for whichever path they chose to pursue i.e., directly entering the workforce, a skill/certification or preparation for college and/or university.

Campaign website:

Campaign’s social media site(s): Elizabeth Porter for School Board