District 1 candidates on Tuesday’s ballot for Clay County District School Board

Zoey Fields

Three candidates are running for the District 1 Clay County School Board position. All voters in the district, regardless of party affiliation, will have the opportunity to cast a vote on the District 1 board seat.

The race appears on the August primary ballot and if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to a runoff in November.

Janice Kerekes:

Janice Kerekes is the District 1 incumbentKerekes

Janice Kerekes, 60, is currently on the Clay County School Board. She is married to her husband of 37 years, Mike, and they have three sons, Michael, David and Jamel.

Kereke believes the number one issue for any school district is always the budget, she said.

“Without accountability, we wouldn’t have funding to hire the best teachers, provide the resources students need to thrive and the ability to keep our students safe. It is also the primary responsibility of school boards as created by the Florida Constitution,” she said.

Kerekes is the only candidate in District 1 with former political experience with a background as the Federated Republican Women of Clay former Vice-President and a precinct committeewoman for the Republican Executive Committee.

She believes every parent should have the option to customize their child’s education, with one of her top priorities being to create specialty programs within public schools such as the new Montessori program offered at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary, she said.

“Moving forward, I would also like to see a science-based Junior High as well as an additional concept school to service the southern portion of our county,” she said. “The creation of these specialty programs will allow us to keep students in our public schools while still allowing them options in their education.”

Kerekes thinks all elementary school students should be exposed to art and music classes at an earlier age, as well as have routine physical education to combat rising obesity rates, she said.

Additionally, she recognizes that not every student is college bound.

“We must continue to expand our Career and Technical Education programs and continue to develop the Clay Virtual Academy,” she said. “This will help improve our overall graduation rate by providing students different options for their educational career.”

In addition to children’s futures, Kerekes is motivated to increase school safety and eliminate portables, she said.

“We have already removed close to 200 portables and will continue to replace portables with new classroom buildings moving forward,” she said. “A building creates a safer, more inclusive learning environment for our students.”

She believes the definition of a good quality education is a well-rounded education in which a student has access to a range of classes to meet their goals as well as extracurricular activities, she said.

“A good quality education requires passionate teachers who love what they do and I am so proud of our team here in Clay County,” she said. “Our teachers and support employees are the best in the state and provide quality education to all of our students.”

When asked about banning library books, Kerekes said the county must focus on protecting students while still ensuring they have access to quality materials.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation going on right now but the bottom line is we do not have pornography in our school libraries,” she said. “I trust our media specialists and administrators to keep our students safe when purchasing materials for their school.”

Books for removal, in her opinion, are those with sexually-explicit material, drug paraphernalia or works that glorify violence.

“It saddens me to see special interest groups trying to ban books such as Harry Potter, 1984, and presidential biographies from presidents they do not like,” she said. “I think censorship is a dangerous thing to introduce into our community.”

Kerekes did not answer inquiries about House Bill 1557, but emphasized that Clay County schools do a great job of adhering to the law and they often see people moving to the area because of the A-rating from the state, she said.

Additionally, she is excited to see millions of taxpayer dollars being saved as the district switches to a self-insured policy for all employees, she said.

“This will not only save taxpayers millions of dollars in the coming years, but it will provide better quality benefits to our employees and their families,” she said. It took several years of conservative fiscal management to reach this point and I am proud of the work we have done to achieve this goal.”

Click here for Janice Kerekes’ campaign site.

Erin Skipper:

Erin SkipperSkipper

Erin Skipper, 32, is married to her high school sweetheart, Joshua, and together they have two children, Kannyn, 4, and Ansleigh, 2.

She prides herself as a candidate who sticks to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education agenda and keeps parental rights first, she said.

“A good education is one that involves parents, one that puts children at the focus of learning and fully embodies putting the child first,” she said.

Skipper wants to see more balancing of the school budget so Clay County District Schools can put supplies in the classroom for teachers, as well as the budget to hire on more staff as the county grows.

“All in all, I want to see a happier workplace so teachers want to show up and teach,” she said. “This happens by keeping social issues out of the classroom so they can do their jobs the right way.”

When asked about House Bill 1557, deemed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which removes Critical Race Theory and social-emotional learning from classroom curriculum, Skipper said the media is blowing it up to something that it is not.

“I fully support and back our governor fully,” she said. “We must create a policy and make sure it is upheld so we can be transparent with our parents. These are their kids, these are their schools.”

In addition to transparency with parents, Skipper hopes to get parents involved again, noting there are a few schools still following COVID-19 protocol – eliminating visitor and volunteer opportunities.

“We need parents doing the work and wanting to be involved,” she said. “Certain schools not allowing volunteer participation is not okay. If you want to come eat lunch with your kid, that should be allowed, assuming proper safety measures are in place.”

She emphasized that all parents want is more communication.

“If you are going to send out surveys, then you need to consult the parents who fill them out,” she said. “That’s it! All parents are asking is for a little communication. That’s all.”

Another controversial topic in Clay County currently is the banning of library books from schools. Parents now have the ability to challenge books they deem inappropriate and potentially have them removed from library shelves. They can also determine which books their children can check out from the library.

“The only banning of books in Clay County has been outright pornography,” Skipper said. “There were pornographic pictures in a recent picture book that we banned from our system because it does not need to be in the eyes of children.”

She believes parents, teachers and school administration should be part of the library book policy that determines what books are on the shelves for students, however, the situation has been blown out of proportion, she said.

Skipper’s mother is entering her 35th year teaching in Clay County District Schools and also comes from a long line of educators, she said.

“The union loves to victimize and make it where everybody else is the enemy and they are the victim,” she said. “I love our teachers and I know they are, generally, happy with their positions in Clay County.”

She wants teachers to feel recognized and supported, she said, noting that their jobs are challenging and especially with classroom size growing.

“Just because the classrooms are at a size that they should be, according to the state law, does not mean it is sufficient or an easy task for all classrooms,” she said. “Nobody is underestimating the tasks our teachers face.”

Her focus in the classroom is to put emphasis on transparency between teacher, parent and student, and to remove politics from the classroom.

“I never knew what party affiliation my teacher was, or if she went to church or if she voted. I just knew she was my English teacher or whatever subject,” Skipper said. “We know way more now than I feel like we should and we need to be teaching our children ‘how’ to think and not ‘what’ to think.”

Click here for Erin Skipper’s campaign site.

Charles Kirk:

Charles KirkKirk

Charles "Chuck" Kirk, 54, is married to his wife, Donna, and together they have two daughters, Emily and April.

Kirk did not respond to NewsBreak inquiries regarding House Bill 1557 or library books but did provide answers at an earlier date regarding his campaign.

“I am retired so I can give 100% to this seat and everything it requires, unlike my opponents,” he said. “I have no distractions that will interfere me from doing my very best for the parents and children of Clay County.”

Kirk has been a substitute teacher in Clay County District Schools for 10 years and a coach for eight.

“After talking to many parents and hearing their concerns, I want them to know that I will be their voice and representative. These concerns include school safety, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and books that teachers use, as well as all of the things that matter to push their kids to succeed,” he said.

He puts an emphasis on school safety because of his background in law enforcement with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office where he served as a sergeant for 20 years.

“My background in law enforcement makes me the most qualified candidate in all the districts to contribute to this subject,” he said. “I also want the teachers to know they can come to me to voice their concerns for any material or technology they are using so we can give them all the best tools for success.”

Kirk told News4Jax that he likes House Bill 1557 and hopes to see parents take advantage of it for their children’s education and future.

“We need to make sure that the teachers and administrators are following state laws and not getting off the path where they start to do their own things,” he said. “Our teachers already have a lot of rules they must follow and they are having a hard time with just getting the ABC’s learned. The students need to be informed about the different topics; with the help of the parents and teachers working together, the kids will be well guided and educated.”

Click here for Charles Kirk’s campaign website.

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Jacksonville, FL

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