Former Leon County School Board member and long-time school administrator Forrest Van Camp, told Tallahassee Reports he will file to run for Superintendent of Leon Schools.
In an exclusive interview, Van Camp told TR why he is running and addressed each of his opponents. Van Camp said:
I have decided to come out of retirement and run for Superintendent of Schools for Leon County. I cannot sit by and watch the possibility that this great school district may be turned over to a political maverick like Scott Maddox, or a non-experienced showboat, Rocky Hanna. I am also concerned that my friend, Jackie Pons, may have waited too late to show leadership in dealing with problem employees and current issues.
Van Camp highlighted his 36 years with the Leon County school district as qualifications for the position. He has served on the administrative staff for all superintendents since 1978 and served 6 years on the Leon County School Board.
In 2014 Van Camp lost his bid for re-election to current Leon School Board member Alva Striplin as the investigation into the awarding of construction contracts at the school board was unfolding.
Van Camp detailed specific policy positions he will support as superintendent.
He wants to remove common core from Leon County schools, reduce staff at the district level, and make sure Leon County Schools are run by local decisions.
Also, Van Camp staked out a position that promises to garner attention and appears to be in direct opposition to current school district policy. Van Camp stated “that all students will use the bathroom/shower facilities based on gender at birth. Accommodations can and will be made for special needs.”
TR recently reported on the the School Board’s position on this issue here.
A list of Van Camp’s policy positions are provided at the end of this story.
The entrance of Van Camp is bound to add political intrigue and uncertainty to the already controversial race which featured former Leon High School principal Rocky Hanna and current City Commissioner Scott Maddox challenging incumbent Superintendent Jackie Pons.
City Commissioner Scott Maddox was first to enter the race, criticizing Pons’ leadership and referencing the ongoing FBI investigation. At their first debate, Maddox continued the critique.
Maddox is also advocating for redirecting more funds to the classroom and addressing the low school grades on the southside.
Pons, who was under constant attack in local media with regards to the construction contract issue, decided to run for re-election when an in-house report found no wrong doing and it appeared no action from the authorities was imminent. He announced his intentions in July, 2015
Pons argues that the construction contract issue was overblown and that he and his staff deserve credit for the district’s A rating.
Maddox and Pons are running as Democrats in the partisan race scheduled to be decided in the primary on August 3oth.
Former Leon School principal Rocky Hanna announced his intentions to run in August, 2015. He chose to run with no party affiliation and will not appear on the ballot until November. Hanna made news when he filed for whistle blower protection during the investigation into school board construction contracts. Hanna recently resigned his position with the school board, as is required by state law.
Hanna believes the school district has been mismanaged under Pons’ leadership and has criticized highly paid administrators and the diversion of money for school supplies to other purposes.
Together, the three candidates have raised over $600,000.
There are some who have been following the politics of this race who believe Van Camp entered the contest to take votes from Hanna in the general election which could help Pons win.
When asked about this theory, Van Camp said “I believe I am more qualified than anyone in this race and my commitment to education is beyond reproach. I am in it to win it.”
By entering the race Van Camp, a Republican and currently without a primary opponent, ensures that the November race will feature a Republican, a Democrat, and at this point, at least three candidates with no party affiliation. The no party affiliation candidates included Hanna, Michael Wynn, and Patricia Sunday.
Van Camp’s Campaign Positions
• Treat all students as if they are my grandchildren. I plan to adopt all of them.
• Return Leon County Schools to the basics, both academically and financially.
• Empower principals and school staff to make decisions at the school level. I will hire the best principals, and they will report directly to me.
• Reduce staff at the district level.
• Redirect dollars to the classroom.
• Redirect the use of federal dollars to serve all students and not just selected sites.
• Remove Common Core from Leon County Schools.
• Stand firm that all students will use the bathroom/shower facilities based on gender at birth. Accommodations can and will be made for special needs.
• Hire the best teachers to better ensure that all students receive the BEST educational experiences possible.
• Make sure USDOE and FDOE will not run Leon County Schools.
• Listen to parents and community leaders and work with the Leon County School Board to ensure that a great educational community exists in Leon County