Incumbent faces challenger in only contested board race

Two candidates are running in the only contested election for the Seminole County School Board.

Two candidates are running in the only contested election for the Seminole County School Board. The winner will represent district 3 — a southwestern chunk of the county — but will be elected countywide when voters go to the polls Aug. 18.

Abby Sanchez, who is completing her first term on the board, is being challenged for her seat by Veronica King.

Seminole school board members earned about $41,500 this year and serve four-year terms. Amy Pennock, who represents district 4, is also up for election this year but has no challenger.

Who they are

King, 45, who lives in Altamonte Springs, works for the mayor of Eatonville and is making her first bid for elected office. She is a longtime community volunteer for organizations such as the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. She is the mother of two grown children who attended Seminole’s public schools.

Sanchez, 53, who lives in Longwood, is a former teacher who left the classroom when she won a seat on the board. She’d taught for more than 25 years, and had also been a longtime PTA member and school volunteer, before running in 2016. She is the mother of three grown children who attended Seminole schools.

Where they stand

King said she has always been “a public servant by heart” and is eager to put her energies to work for the public school system. “I’ve always given back to the community,” she said.

The board has no Black members, and King said the “time is right” for that. “School boards are supposed to reflect the diversity of the community,” she said.

If elected, King said she would work to improve how schools deal with the family and health issues that can impact student behavior and academic performance and to make sure that parents whose children need special-education services can access them easily. Her son needed them, she said, and it felt “more of a fight than an accommodation.”

She’d also work to make sure school district hiring and promotion policies were free of bias and to find ways to boost teacher pay. “I think our teachers are wonderful. They have made sacrifices.”

Sanchez said she ran four years ago because she was convinced the school board needed a teacher who understood and could share with district leaders the challenges faced in the classroom. She remains passionate about that role, she said. “I can be a voice for the teachers. They open up to me, and they’re able to share their concerns,” she added.

Sanchez said, if re-elected, would continue her push for the expansion of career and technical programs that help students not planning on college, for more mental health services for students and for pay raises for all teachers, not just those covered by the money earmarked to boost the minimum salary to $47,500.

She’d also continue her support for a reduction in testing and a focus on all aspects of student development. “I want a balanced child. I think social skills are extremely important,” she said.

Since her election, Sanchez said she has worked hard to make herself accessible to parents and to regularly meet with groups of students to gather their thoughts. “I don’t stop,” she said.

How they differ

Sanchez voted with the majority of the Seminole school board to open campuses on Aug. 17 for parents who wanted face-to-face instruction for their children. Because of coronavirus concerns, board members decided to offer parents options, so they could choose to have their kids back on campus or to study at home through an online program.

Sanchez said at the meeting that the decision “scares the daylights out of me” but she felt the board had little choice, because of the state’s order requiring in-person classes start in August. “I’m not happy about it,” she said just before casting a yes vote.

King said she did not think it was safe to open campuses next month, even though she knows that some parents need schools in session in order to be able to work. Though recently married, she raised her children as a single mother and said she feels for those in that situation.

But she said “health and safety” comes first. “I still wouldn’t have voted in favor it. I feel like we’re putting lives at risk,” she added.

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