NCFL Election Preview: Alachua County School Board District 5

NCFL Election Preview: Alachua County School Board District 5
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 7:26 AM EDT
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ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) - Kay Abbitt and Prescott Cowles are running for the District 5 seat.

Both candidates have a long background in Alachua County that they said make them a fit for the role.

Kay Abbitt has lived in Alachua County for 36 years and sent all 4 of her children through the school system that she hopes to serve.

“I have more education experience than any candidate running and feel like I have a lot to offer” said Abbitt.

She was a teacher at Idylwild and Archer elementary schools for 10 years.

During that time, she started a federally funded tutoring company named ABC Apple Tree.

Then went on to open and run Boulware Springs Charter School located in northeast Gainesville.

“I have all this education experience I can bring to the table. When I started this school I was a teacher and had no admin experience. I learned a lot working with the district on a daily basis, interacting with all the departments, so I have a good feel for how the district works and what needs to be done to make it improve” said Abbitt.

Abbitt said she is current in her knowledge of Alachua County schools.

She says the first thing that she will focus on if elected is behavior in schools.

“We need to have a district wide behavior plan that has behaviors and has consequences. We need to have parents, students, everybody on board with it so they understand, if I do this and I am disrespectful, there will be this consequence. Right now, there is not really anything that’s being followed in the district. It is really inconsistent from school to school and needs to be consistent district wide” said Abbitt.

Abbitt believes in order to make change there needs to be a board that is organized and respects one another, something she hopes to bring.

“There’s been a lot of dysfunction with the school board because there has been a lot of political issues brought by both sides, liberals and conservatives, and there’s so much time spent on that but they’re not focusing on what needs to be done, which is helping our schools improve so our students can be more successful. I would like to see a board elected that would work together and be respectful to one another in public and in the board room and can make changes” said Abbitt.

She will be running against Prescott Cowles for the District 5 seat.

Cowles was an Alachua County student himself, attending Talbot elementary, Lincoln middle, and Eastside high school.

Following his passion for education, he became a middle school science teacher in Tampa, along with additional roles as a camp counselor and program director.

“My entire professional life has been dedicated to public education and to serving the kids here in Alachua County” said Cowles.

After his time as a teacher, Cowles went on to lead the Alachua County school district’s Covid-19 response team at the peak of the pandemic in 2021.

“I worked with our principals, our teachers, our nurses, our custodians. I worked with them across all of our schools to keep our students safe. Our work helped save lives. I know that our district faces tremendous challenges from republican attacks in Tallahassee that are determined to destroy public education and we have systemic inequities that have been in this county for generations” said Cowles.

Cowles said these issues will take energy and endurance to overcome and said he has both.

While serving as the districts Covid-19 response team leader, he noticed a disconnect between the classrooms and the decisions being made by the school board and district office.

“One of my priorities is bringing that connection again. Bringing the voices to the table of the educational experts of the students, of the families that these the decisions are actually impacting. So, there is actually a connection between what the problems are that have existed for a long time and finally connecting them with solutions” said Cowles.

During his time as the Covid-19 response team leader, he began a teacher advisory committee to continue his goal to be an advocate for public schools and everyone in them.

“Public education I think is on the line these days. It’s under attack locally, it’s under attack from the state level and it has been for quite some time as our budget are getting drained and drained away. We’ve got to stand together, we’ve got to speak up and we’ve got to do what’s best for the kids here in Alachua County” said Cowles.

Cowles hopes to make strong connections with outside organizations, governments and health experts to make sure all voices are heard.

Early voting began on Saturday and will go until August 20th.

Election day is on August 23rd.

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