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Students set to campaign for school board spot

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:54 PM

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For those tired of dirty politics, Superintendent Bryan Blavatt offers the cleanest election in the state of Florida — that for the student school board representative.

The second annual student delegation ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Nature Coast Technical High School for students to select candidates to hold the non-voting position on the district school board.

That means they will sit with board members during public meetings and can offer their opinions and insights into the views of students. However, they don't have a vote on matters brought before the board.

The students, who must be a junior or senior in good academic standing, will be chosen from their respective high schools and given the opportunity to make speeches to all student delegates representing elementary, middle and high schools.

As was done last year, Blavatt said the process is meant to mimic national political conventions with banners, signs and flags on display from students to show support for their school.

But, he said, the real fun begins two weeks later when the candidates meet again and make final pitches to the school delegates before they cast their votes.

"It's great because the students get to experience elections first-hand without all the negativism that comes with most elections," Blavatt said. "These students just don't do that. They're all very supportive of each other."

This year also will be the first that Weeki Wachee High School, which opened two years ago, will have juniors and seniors to participate in offering a candidate for the seat, making a total of five potential candidates for the seat.

Last year was the first time student school board elections were held. Then, Springstead High School senior Tori Selby easily won.

Despite some misgivings from school board members about the position when it was created, those were put to rest after Selby went on to create a communication system within the schools and organized student groups to tackle various issues throughout the county. She typically also shared student concerns and ideas during board meetings.

Selby also led and participated in monthly meetings with student and education groups, including the superintendent's student advisory board.

Now a freshman at the University of Florida, she hasn't gotten out of politics. She became a part of county commission candidate Diane Rowden's election campaign and assisted in plans to create a similar student representative position with the county, this time mainly involving college students.

She also has spoken to candidates from three of the high schools and offered her help to them.

"My advice is to sit back and listen during the first meeting — and after that don't sit back. Make sure you're actively involved," Selby said. "I think the school board members were then very accepting with what I had to say. They really do listen."

Blavatt said following Wednesday's nominations, the candidates will have roughly two weeks to campaign before the election on Sept. 27.

And if the student representative elected to sit on the school board is nervous about being new to the position, they won't be alone.

After November, one of two school board candidates — local business leader Gus Guadagnino or Sparton Electronics manager Robert Neuhausen — will fill the District 2 seat, replacing School Board member James Yant.

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