By Roy M Postel
10/13/22 Nassau County
Four candidates remain on the November midterm ballot to fill two vacancies on the Nassau County School Board. Voters have an opportunity to give the five-member board a bit of a facelift, as there’s only one incumbent among the field to fill two vacancies for the next four years.
The candidates in the race for District 1 (Fernandina Beach & Piney Island) are incumbent Jamie Deonas and newby Shannon Hogue. Vying to represent District 3 (Yulee, Chester & Blackrock) are Albert Wagner and Curtis Gaus. The County School Board is structured like the County Commission. Elected members reside in specific geographic areas but are selected “at large” so every eligible voter in Nassau County can vote to select the representative from each district.
To help voters assess the choices presented, Citizens Journal Florida invited each candidate to participate in a short survey on the main issues confronting the Nassau County School District. The full results are posted below.
Candidates Gaus and Deonas did not respond to the survey questions and did not accept an invitation to take additional time to respond.
CJF–Q1. Would you vote to establish a Citizens Budget Advisory Council in Nassau County?
Hogue: “I’m in favor of a Citizens Budget Advisory Board. I have been spoken in favor of this during my campaign.”
Wagner: “Yes, 100%. I have stated this several times throughout my campaign.”
CJF–Q2. If elected to a 4-year term, will you serve the entire period, or do you intend to run for Superintendent in 2024?
Hogue: “Yes, I’m only interested in being a School Board member.”
Wagner: “Yes, I have no higher political interest.”
CJF–Q3. Will you pledge to eliminate any trace of promoting CRT and LGBTQ++ in the curriculum?
Hogue: “Governor DeSantis has taken care of this for education.”
Wagner: “Yes. I pledge to keep those out of the curriculum. I further pledge to establish a
parent oversight committee to review curriculum and library materials.”
CJF–Q4. Beside financial issues, what do you view as a significant reason for the district’s low retention rate with teachers and staff?
Hogue: “After speaking to many staff members, they feel micromanaged and that expectations are unrealistic. Each year, more duties and responsibilities are added to their plates. Yet, they are not rewarded for their efforts and extra time.”
Wagner: “No matter the business, but especially in teaching, teachers don’t leave just for more money, they leave because of management. Teachers leave because of top-down leadership that does not respect the talents of professionals. When teacher creativity is taken away and teachers are told to read from a script, they start to consider other opportunities.”
CJF–Q5. Will you agree with, or oppose via an opt-out strategy, any future Federal public health mandates for students?
Hogue: “I will follow the course our governor (Gov. Ron DeSantis) puts in place.”
Wagner: “I agree with an opt-out strategy. Parents’ rights supersede that of Federal Mandates.”
CJF–Q6. Is the millage referendum the best strategy to correct the district’s financial course?
Hogue: “At this moment, yes. However, the spending should be very specific and made public for people to view.”
Wagner: “No and yes. The district dug themselves into a hole with poor fiscal responsibility so right now, they need the surplus that the millage will provide them. However, if elected, I pledge to not ask for another millage increase once this one runs out. Through conservative fiscal responsibility, and in working with a CBAC (proposed Citizens Budget Advisory Committee) I believe we can do better than to raise our taxes. So, (in the longer run) “no” the referendum’s not the best strategy to correct the district’s financials.
Besides the board race, citizens can also vote up or down on referendum to hike by 1 mill the property tax levy for school operating. It is projected to funnel up to $11 million in new revenue to the school district beginning in 2023-2024 school year.
In past public forums sponsored by the citizens group, “We The People,” the Nassau County Republican Party and the Nassau Chamber of Commerce, these issues have been of interest to voters in attendance. The chamber granted Citizens Journal permission to pass along links to video recordings of forums for the District 1 and District 3 candidates produced at the chamber prior to the August primaries….
In the August primary, just over 20,000 voters cast ballots in the two races. Since no candidate received 50 percent, the top two vote getters in each race are on the November ballot to settle the contest in accord with Florida law.
Data from the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections states as of Oct. 13, 2,000 mail in ballots have been received, so that’s 10 percent of the August total already. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Early voting is conducted at select locations from Oct. 26 to Nov. 5.
Hogue was the top vote getter in August, receiving 9,735 votes. Official totals for all the candidates from the primary can be seen here.
Board member Lissa Braddock, District 5 (Callahan & West Yulee) earned a second 4-year term on the board in May when here petition to seek re-election was unopposed.
Roy M. Postel is an off-island Fernandina Beach resident. He was formerly a reporter for two major MidWest newspapers, working the city desk.