Meet the candidates running for Union County superintendent

Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 7:47 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - For the first time in 20 years, the seat for superintendent of Union County schools is vacant after long-time superintendent Carlton Faulk announced he is retiring after the end of this term.

Both candidates running to replace Faulk have a lengthy resume when it comes to the Union County educational system.

“There’s a lot of similarities between the two of us ... in fact we are friends," said candidate David Harris about his competitor Mike Rippingler.

Having worked together in the past, both candidates have many similar qualifications coming into this race. Harris said one of the differences between them is that he has more experience with 27 years in education as well as the experience from his current role as the assistant superintendent for North Florida Technical College in Bradford county.

“As a district leader ... not only do I [see over] about 8 principals and a director of another school but I help with budgeting, I oversee the transition department, I oversee the maintenance and facilities departments, I oversee food service," said Harris.

Harris hopes to provide more resources for teachers and increase career training for high-schoolers.

“I wanna provide opportunities for kids -- those that need help and need a push-- to get them through high school and have them career ready for a job," said Harris.

Republican Mike Ripplinger has spent the last 21 years working in Union County schools. He serves as the Director of Personnel and Secondary Education and has been principal of Union County High School for 9 years. He says what makes him stand out as a candidate is the history of the district’s success that he has helped to build with his colleagues.

“The good thing is ... our district is not broken ... and one thing I have learned is that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I believe the leadership skills I have developed, the relationship with the community and within the school system-- we can use that not only to continue the success we have enjoyed but actually take it to new heights.”

If elected, he says he wants to push for higher teacher salaries and a bigger focus on extracurricular activities.

“I believe not only working with the staff, providing resources, understanding components of the school grade, but also running school in all the extra-curricular activities and giving opportunities for our students to excel beyond the classroom [is important,] said Rippingler.

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