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School Board: Four-way battle in District 4

August 7, 2014
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Only two will advance beyond the primary in the Lee County School Board District 4 race.

Incumbent Don H. Armstrong is seeking to retain his seat against three opponents in the Aug. 26 primary election - Arvella Clare, Richard L. Dunmire and Steve Teuber. As a non-partisan race with multiple candidates, the two to garner the most votes will proceed to the Nov. 4 general election.

All eligible voters in Lee County can cast a ballot in the both primary and general election.

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Don H. Armstrong (incumbent)

* Don H. Armstrong (incumbent)

Age: 44

Residence: North Fort Myers

Occupation: Lee County School Board Member, District 4

Armstrong is seeking re-election because he wants to continue to make a difference.

"We've been doing a lot of good work in the district for the past four years," he said. "I want to continue that work."

As for issues of importance to him, Armstrong would like to eliminate the Common Core State Standards and do away with state assessment testing.

"It's becoming a waste of money, and it's hurting our education system," he said.

Armstrong cited the district's transportation issues and budgetary issues as other concerns.

"Some of the wasteful spending that's been going on that we've been strapped with from the previous board - we're finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

An elimination of the School Choice program is also a focus.

"We need to have a little bit more focus on skills and trades after high school because we have a great vocational school, but I think we could do a lot more," Armstrong added. "Not every kid is going to go to college. I think it's up to the school district to show them other options."

Asked what his first priorities would be if re-elected, he pointed to Common Core.

"It seems to stress out a lot of our teachers and students," Armstrong said. "And bringing accountability to the district and moving forward as we have been."

* Arvella Clare

Age: 50

Residence: Cape Coral

Occupation: Stay-at-home mother

With two daughters in the public school system, and with a background in counseling and social work, Clare wants to use her skill set to refocus the district and provide a parental viewpoint on the board.

"I don't think the focus has been on our children in a very long time," she said of why she is seeking office. "We've had several distractions between the board members, teachers and administration."

Clare explained that the focus should be on creating policies that address concerns, like the lack of parent participation, high drop-out rate and students unable to get into their school or career of choice.

"Evidence-based mentoring is how we can support our students and keep them engaged," she said.

Clare called for a referral system within the school system that would, for example, connect high-risk students with adult mentors within the community, as mentoring has been shown to be effective.

As far as state testing, Clare explained that the district needs to use less of them or use the tests for what they are designed for - to identify students' weaknesses and strengths to support their progress. She added that Common Core State Standards can help students compete with the rest of the nation.

"Standards are absolutely necessary. There's something wrong with an A and B student not being competitive," she said. "I see the real advantages in Common Core."

If elected to the seat, Clare said her top priorities will be ensuring that the students and public know the board exists to serve them and looking into how the district can use its resources more effectively.

"We need outside auditors to come in and look at our system," she said.

Clare noted that if elected to the board, she would be the first minority to serve in Lee County's history.

* Richard L. Dunmire

Age: 82

Residence: North Fort Myers

Occupation: Teacher

Dunmire explained that as a teacher, he has impacted the lives of thousands of students.

"Because I can make a difference," he said of why he is running for office. "I know I can make a difference. I know what the students of Lee County need."

Dunmire's focus is on the students first.

"The budget should be built around the students," he said.

The treatment of district employees is another concern.

"We need to stop the bullying and intimidation of teachers and administrators," Dunmire said.

Opposed to the Common Core State Standards, he does support neighborhood schools.

"The public needs to be made aware of if we went back to neighborhood schools, we'd have much more participation by the parents," Armstrong said.

One of his first priorities if elected would be tackling the district's budget.

"Putting the budget where it belongs - in the classroom," he said.

* Steve Teuber

Age: 51

Residence: North Fort Myers

Occupation: Lawyer

Teuber previously served on the Lee County School Board from 2002-10. When he lost his run for re-election, Lee County was an A district and 85 percent of the schools were graded A or B by the state.

"Three years later, we are now a C district. Fifty percent of our schools are C, D or F," Teuber said. "We're going in the wrong direction, and this board doesn't seem to have a clue."

With a daughter in the school system, he said he cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.

Asked about his campaign's focus, Teuber cited academics and bringing back a strategic plan, centering on the bottom line through fiscal responsibility and eliminating the Common Core State Standards.

"They haven't touched the strategic plan in four years," he said. "We had people who came on the board with no leadership skills or experience."

Teuber pointed to a 4 percent raise in the millage rate.

"If the school district had done the right thing this year, we wouldn't have an increase," he said.

He cited transportation issues and a need to modify the School Choice program as other concerns.

"We need to figure out what we need to do to get us back to an A district," Teuber said, adding that implementing a strategic plan that is aligned academically would be his top priority if elected.

"Two high schools need to break ground by July 2015. We have to get the funding sources," he added.



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