In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Name: Laura Hine
Office: Pinellas County School Board, District 1
More than 5 years hands-on in our schools, Mother of 2 young boys invested in public education, 20+ year experienced community and business leader, U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Veteran, MBA in Finance.
Why should voters vote for you?
I am the candidate in this race who has shown up for our public schools and done the work alongside our teachers, families and legislators. I have demonstrated my commitment and capabilities around public service not through just words, but through deeds.
As an experienced leader, I am capable and will make an impact. As a veteran who swore an oath, I will serve all people, with dedication, transparency, and truth. And as a mother with two young children in our public schools, I will work my tail off ensuring public education thrives not just for my children, but for all children.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
1. Immediate: Health, Learning & Funding impacts of COVID.
2. Long term: Inspired professional development, Trust & Autonomy for our educators allowing for Innovation and Creativity in all of our schools. Shifting our schools from this data-based high-stakes-testing environment to a whole-child, stimulating, curiosity-based, love-of-learning environment.
3. Long term: Recognizing and ameliorating the impacts of poverty and race inequity on education outcomes. This will revolutionize our communities, our work force, our economy and provide for a healthy, happy and prosperous future for many more.
What are three key messages of your campaign?
1. The single most powerful way to impact the future of our community, of our country is through education. We can, we must, enable our classrooms, teachers, students and families to thrive.
2. School Board matters. Our public schools affect us all. The children that are in our schools today are the families, communities, workforce, military of tomorrow. Strong public education is vital to familial, economic and national security, vital to our democracy. if there are challenges in our schools, or if there are opportunities to further excel, it is up to US to engage. I have dug in for our students, with our teachers and families, and I am ready to do more.
3. Article IX of our state constitution states that ““The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” That it is “a paramount duty of the state…” to provide a “high quality system of free public schools…[which] allows students to obtain a high quality education…” While as an officer in our nation’s military I took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America, today I am asking for your vote for school board so that I can work to better achieve the constitutional values of the state of Florida, to achieve that system, not a few, but a full system of public schools that allow our students to obtain high quality education.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
I am passionate about many fields of public policy. Since raising my right hand at 18 years old, I have been passionate about public policy, about our democracy. I could read, talk, work on so many areas across domestic and foreign policy, and have had such an interest that 17 years ago I applied to and was accepted to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for a masters degree in the subject. I decided to stay home with my family as the first grandchild was being born and I dove into public service here in our community and earned an MBA in Finance at night instead.
Fast-forward to today: In the last 5 years, as my own children came of age, I became keenly aware of the gross inequities – and great opportunities – in the arena of public education. I researched, I read, I showed up and I worked. I am still doing that today and will continue to do so. Please recognize that the arena of public education includes a vast array; we work in education, yes, but we also work in mental health, juvenile justice, poverty, exceptional student education, school safety, and many other policy areas. We need people on our school board that have the experience and capacity to work – passionately – across fields.
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
I recognize and respect the difficulty of the decisions having to be made at all levels – state, county, city. But think about public education – about the scale of it and the emotional piece of who they serve. People’s children. Our teachers and staff. The vast number of physical spaces as well. This has been and is significantly complicated.
When it comes to COVID assessment and decision-making, the top three factors for me are: health, learning and funding. We must first make decisions on health of our students, families and teachers. With those decisions made, we must make learning as optimal as possible in the potentially-changed environment. Finally, we know there will be financial impacts from the state and county on funding, and we must be thinking about those now.
In July when cases were spiking in Pinellas, I felt that going 100% virtual for the first quarter would have been a strong course to take. We would have commitment efforts to make the virtual learning optimal for all teachers and learners, and with everyone on that same page, it could have been the major planning focus and done well.
PCS chose to have both options: in person and virtual, then they added the complicated layer of simultaneous teaching. With that piece, I believe we should have pushed school start another 2-weeks and given schools and teachers more time for planning and preparation in the new environment. Teachers and schools were slammed trying to get back and get started in this new environment so quickly. That said, our teachers and staff, students and families are AMAZING. Every week has gotten a bit better.
The optimal way for children to learn and grow is in-person school; we have all seen that first-hand now as well as the impacts on our families with sustained school closures. We will get to the other side of this, and our teachers and our students will thrive in our schools!
We need innovative, experienced, and thoughtful leaders, as well as parents and teachers who are engaged and invested in our public education system, to be assessing and making decisions in this environment. I am prepared to be part of that team.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
Recognizing significant inequities in education opportunities across our county is the reason I became actively involved in public education. The next 100 years in America will be what we make it. What we must do for a just and thriving tomorrow is cultivate and unleash the innate capabilities of our Black and brown children the way we have our white children, and education is the cornerstone of this possibility.
There is a direct-line correlation between race and school grade; and, we will move the needle by identifying and ameliorating the impacts of socio-economic issues as well as systemic inequities in our society.
Pinellas County has made some progress with their Bridging the Gap plan, and if our society truly wants to make an impact we must do more. We must expand early childhood education, expand minority hiring, vastly improve our ratio of counselors to students, we must have an intercultural curriculum, double down on our Equity Champions work, and so much more. We have to name it, talk about it, do the math, and go after the public support and funding to make these things happen.
What motivates you to run for public office?
I was raised with the value of service, looking around you and seeing how and where you could serve others. My parents demonstrated this value to me, then it was further imbued in me during my 4 years at the U.S. Naval Academy where Ship-Shipmate-Self is a driving creed. What needs to be done to serve the Ship? The person next to me, my Shipmate. And lastly, for myself. I have been involved in community service in one aspect or another throughout my adult life. From Girl Scouts to Little League, from museums, performing arts and wounded veterans to our children’s hospital and more.
In the last 5 years, with my children coming of age for school, this service has turned to public education. I, working with an amazing team of teachers and parents, have had a significant impact on education. When it came time to figure out the next best way that I could serve in the field of public education, the answer was School Board. I am running for this public office, for School Board, because I care passionately about public education for all students and as an experienced leader, a military veteran and a mother of two young children in our schools, I believe that I have the experience, drive and personal commitment to make a difference.