CRESTVIEW — Incumbents in each of the three School Board races face challengers in the Aug. 26 primary election.
The News Bulletin invited the seven candidates to share their positions with voters. They defended their positions on issues including Common Core standards and classroom instruction time.
Our Aug. 13-15 edition will feature profiles of candidates for clerk of court/comptroller and Board of County Commissioners, District 4.
Cindy Frakes (incumbent)
Personal: Husband Bernie; two sons, Russ and Steven, both attending Okaloosa County schools; and nine grandchildren
West Florida Regional Planning Council, governor appointee, (past chair); Florida Planning Councils Association (past president); Okaloosa Value Adjustment Board (School Board representative); Okaloosa Public School Foundation (School Board representative); Okaloosa RESTORE Advisory Committee (School Board representative); Florida School Boards Association (various committees); Northwest Florida Manufacturing Council (School Board representative); and Economic Development Council (past chair)
Wright Baptist Church: worship choir, Adult Bible Study teacher; chair, Leadership Team; church trustee
Relevant experience: 16 years as a School Board member, currently vice chair. I have been actively involved in all aspects of school board governance to include fiscal oversight for a $400 million budget, personnel policy decisions for over 3,500 employees, academic determinations for 30,000 students. In addition, I’ve served on boards directly tied to workforce and economic development, keeping our schools strong to keep our economy strong.
Other education/experience: BA, University of Oklahoma, Communication Disorders; MA, University of West Florida, Special Education
Reason you seek this position: To solidify our CHOICE Academies (career technical education) and ensure more students have opportunities to pursue career ready, nationally recognized certifications. CTE is becoming more critical to our place in the world, to our national defense and our way of life. College prep curriculum is not going away but in the next decade, more students will pursue CTE curriculum. I also want to ensure STEMM curriculum is rock solid and available at all levels. Both goals are important to the economy of our region and nation and we must work to keep it in the forefront of our school system.
Biggest issues: Wise use of our limited resources must be at the forefront of decision making. Creative responses will be required. To combat rising health costs, I recommend our own employee/dependent health clinic. Other districts have realized substantial savings on insurance and medical costs with such a facility. Energy costs are increasing about 15 percent a year. Energy savings plans can curtail this, allowing this cost avoidance to provide funding for maintenance on our aging buildings.
Dr. Lamar White
Personal: Connie White, wife; Ben White, son, 36.
Endorsed by Emerald Coast Association of Realtors and by Okaloosa Smart Vote
Doctorate: Educational Leadership, Florida State University
Master of Arts: American History, University of West Florida
Bachelor of Arts: Political Science, University of West Florida
35 years as an award-winning Okaloosa Educator (retired 2012)
Principal: Meigs Middle School, Ruckel Middle School, Plew Elementary, and Ocean City Elementary; district administrator, assistant principal, teacher and coach
Florida Master Teacher, 1986; Twice elected “Outstanding Professor” in College of Education graduate school at UWF; 13 consecutive Florida “A” school grades while principal of three schools (1999-2012); Who’s Who in American Education, 1990; Designated a “Mentor Principal” for Okaloosa; Member Phi Alpha Theta National Historical Honorary Society; past president, Middle School Athletic Conference; twice recipient of Music Participation Award for Florida Middle Schools
Member of St. Simon’s Episcopal Church, Fort Walton Beach, Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce; Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce, Panhandle Animal Welfare Society, Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity; and former Kiwanis member, YMCA volunteer coach and Shalimar volunteer coach
Relevant experience: I served the students, teachers, parents and citizens of Okaloosa for 35 years. I was the principal of four schools (Ocean City, Plew, Ruckel and Meigs) from 1986-2012. I was also a Florida master teacher, coach, assistant principal and district staff member. As principal, I earned 13 consecutive Florida A school grades. I never had a budget deficit. As an adjunct professor, I was twice the “Outstanding Professor.” I was a “Mentor Principal” for Okaloosa.
Other education/experience: I am a recognized fiscal conservative. I was selected to serve on Okaloosa School district’s “Cost Containment” committees during times of financial crisis in America by two administrations 20 years apart. I have taught graduate school educational finance.
This election is about education. I possess unmatched qualifications and insights into our schools. I have “hands-on” knowledge of every aspect of educational operations. I was accountable at every level: elementary, middle, high, district and university.
Reason you seek this position: I am seeking election to the school board because my unique experiences as an Okaloosa principal, assistant principal, district staff member and teacher provided me with unique insights into our schools that are sorely needed on the school board. This election is about education. This election is about schools. I have a proven record of managing Okaloosa schools for 26 years. In the election for the District 1 seat, I believe the record reflects that I possess the credentials, qualifications, experiences and insights into our schools that are critically needed to get our schools headed back in the right direction.
Biggest issues: Even though Okaloosa schools have great students, parents, teachers and citizen supporters, our biggest issue is “academic decline.”
As reported by local media, our students are not achieving at previous levels.
Our students and teachers have experienced real reductions of instructional time. Local school board mandates like “early release/late start” and locally mandated testing (neither required by law) reduced learning time. Increased teacher paperwork and data collection have reduced instruction.
I would move to reverse the practice of early release/late start and other local mandates that reduced instructional time for our students and reduce teacher paperwork and data collection burdens.
C.W. Soldier Hyden
Personal: Wife, Patricia Hyden; two sons under age 2, Nathan and Noah. We are a multi-lingual family that believes strongly in education. We moved here from the UK a little over a year ago. Active members of Lifepoint Church in Crestview and Igreja Ceifa, a Brazilian church in Destin. I am completing my third university degree. I enjoy lifting and personal fitness as well as studying history, arts and classical civilizations.
Relevant experience: I have no background in education nor sat on the school board for 12, 16 or 20 years as some current members have. I’m just a dad trying to help my sons and fellow parents make the schools work for our families and our futures. I meet all required qualifications for this office. I believe in term limits, so I’m afraid I will not be a career school board member.
Other education/experience: A researcher by profession, I discussed with Gov. Rick Scott’s education aide the ire of academics and families over Common Core. Two of our incumbents, who are running for their fifth and sixth terms, voted for Common Core but no current school board member or school administrators even bothered attending such an important meeting. I don’t understand why when the public is mostly opposed to Common Core and Florida is changing Common Core to Florida Standards.
Reason you seek this position: Only one parent of enrolled students is on the school board. Where are the voices of the students and parents? Our board is not accessible or accountable. Why are school start times so early? Why is there early release when it’s not a state requirement? The current board is dominated by multi-term members more interested in keeping a title rather than being servants. The incumbent’s campaign financial records state he is funded by political PACs. This is who is getting a voice on our school board rather than parents and students. This must change. I will lead the change.
Biggest issues: The current school board approved the $2.3 million Race to the Top grant, which came with a Common Core mandate. That onetime payment is costing us millions to make teachers Common Core qualified. One local school spent $5.4 million training teachers. That’s a $3.1 million deficit in just one school.
Special interest groups promote Common Core as a way to prepare kids for university. But no respectable university will accept students educated under Common Core because it won’t prepare them for a proper four-year university education. Our children’s education will continued to be impinged. Please help me stop this madness.
Dr. Joe Slusser
Personal: Wife, Pam; three sons, Jason, Jeremy and Chris; and five grandchildren. Member of New Beginnings Church, Crestview. Volunteer chaplain at Okaloosa County Jail. YMCA board chairman 2005-06, Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Relevant experience: More than 44 years of educational/teaching experience. BA Education; M.Ed. in Special Education/ESE, Master Specialist, Doctorate in Education.
Other education/ experience: Taught 30-plus years in Kentucky, retired and came to Florida, set up the Emotional Behavior Disturbed program at Richbourg and Shoal River Middle Schools, last 13-plus years.
Reason you seek this position: Service to our kids, parents, teachers and the entire county. We need to improve our school system to ensure the futures of our children. I have always put “kids first.” I will be a voice for all citizens.
Biggest issues: Common core: Our state has accepted this faulty educational process, calling it by another name. It’s costly, not only in financial terms but also at the expense of our children's education.
Reduced classroom instruction time: Due to unnecessary teacher paperwork, early release days, and administration of unmandated standardized testing and end-of-course exams. Teachers support reduction of activities that reduce class instruction time. We can add time by changing from early release days to the use of teacher work days, either once per month or every other month. Students would have a day off; parents won’t have to find childcare.
Rodney Walker (incumbent)
Personal: Two children; Baptist Church member
Relevant experience: 48 years as a teacher, school administrator, district administrator and five terms as a school board member
Reason you seek this position: I would like to continue to assist in providing an excellent education system for all students, and continue with several capital and academic projects that have been initiated. I believe my experience and understanding of the total school system is an asset.
Biggest issues: There is a lack of capital revenue to construct new schools and repair aging facilities; and we must continue to improve our curriculum to meet the changing needs of society. We must find more conservative ways to utilize our total revenue in order to meet these needs. We must also find ways to have less federal and state control and return operation of school to the local level.
Personal: Wife, Shelley; children, Brooke, William (Niceville High School) and Samuel (STEMM Academy).
Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee; Member/Usher, United Methodist Church of Niceville; Air Force Officers Association; Air Force Academy Alumni Association; and Emerald Coast Soccer Official Association.
Relevant experience: College High School Recruiter, U.S. Air Force Academy; North Bay fire commissioner; Florida High School athletic official; and chairman, Niceville-Valparaiso Tea Party.
Other education/experience: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, U.S. Air Force Academy; U.S. Air Force Squadron Officers School; U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College; U.S. Air Force Air War College; U.S. Air Force Under-graduate Pilot Training; U.S. Air Force Advanced Fighter Training (F15); and MS Human Factors in Aviation, Embry Riddle
Reason you seek this position: The beauty of representative government allows each of us the opportunity to replace our elected officials when they no longer represent us. This is our duty as Americans; that is why I entered the race for School Board, D5. I want the parents of Okaloosa County to know my No. 1 priority is school safety. Our SROs serve our community as mentors, and protectors against drugs and gangs in our schools. Secondly, I will defend a parent’s right to school choice; parents know best, not government. Next, I will advance our STEMM and CHOICE programs for the betterment of all students.
Biggest issues: With regards to academic standards, I support a challenging curriculum. I oppose Common Core. Our government has proven they fail miserably with massive, nationwide programs. We cannot trust them with our most prized possessions. Our children and our nation’s future are too important to leave them at the mercy of a bureaucrat in Washington. Also, I have a proven track record of being a fiscal conservative. Our schools will live within their means, just like you do at home. When our economy does well, our schools will do well, when our economy slows down, our school growth will as well.
Melissa Thrush (incumbent)
Personal: Husband, Dr. Christopher Scott Reid; four children: Hannah Reid (eighth grade), Emily Reid (sixth grade), Marie Reid (fourth grade), and Richard Reid (kindergarten); School Board liaison, Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce.
Relevant experience: Served the citizens of Okaloosa County as the District 5 School Board Member with integrity, November 2010 to present; full-time School Board member who attends all School Board workshops and meetings and many events throughout the district; volunteers in schools in our district and attends School Advisory Council meetings; accessible to constituents and taxpayers to listen and address concerns; and makes decisions based on information gathered and thoughtful research.
Other education/experience: Raised and educated in Okaloosa County, first through 12th grades; AFROTC four-year scholarship to NCSU, Raleigh, N.C.; B.S., Electrical Engineering, 1990; Masters of Integrated Manufacturing Systems Engineering 1993; parent of four children who attend public school in Niceville; engineering work experience in manufacturing plants operated by Cummins Engine Company, Procter & Gamble, Merck and Baxter Healthcare; and computer systems senior engineer for the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Virginia.
Reason you seek this position: I am encouraged and inspired by the dedication and passion of our administration, teachers and staff to fulfill our mission to provide a safe educational learning environment for our students.
My desire to serve full time on the School Board is sincere. I have made many difficult decisions in the last four years. When making these decisions I have studied the issues and solicited input from school district staff, teachers, parents and taxpayers.
Each decision has been made with two important questions in mind: What is best for our students and what is the best use of our limited resources?
Biggest issues: Continued academic learning gains for students — achieved through collaboration of our school board, administration, teachers, staff and community partners to create a curriculum that engages our students and provides them an opportunity to be active and productive members of society; aging facilities and transportation infrastructure — will continue efforts to effectively budget our capital expenditures on prioritized capital needs and consistently advocate to remove capital discretionary funds for individual board members; and technology access for our students and staff — will allocate funding for hands-on equipment and devices for use in the classroom, professional development, STEMM programs and CHOICE programs.