School Superintendent Candidates Pull No Punches

School Superintendent Candidates Pull No Punches

By Karen Murphy

TALLAHASSEE – Candidates for Leon County School Superintendent pulled no punches Tuesday during the Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates (NEBA) candidate forum.

Candidates Rocky Hanna, Woody Hildebrandt, Patricia Ann Sunday, and Forrest Van Camp squared off against incumbent superintendent Jackie Pons at the Capital City Country Club with Tallahassee Reports editor Steve Stewart moderating.

Two candidates, Hildebrandt and Hanna, described themselves as whistleblowers against the incumbent superintendent. Both contend the district skirted state law in its awarding of no bid construction contracts. Both hammered the incumbent on the issue, even though no charges have been brought in the two years since the investigation began.

“There is no doubt in my mind that for years non-bidded construction projects were handed out in return for political donations and campaigns, no doubt,” said Hanna, a former Leon School principal who is running with no political affiliation (NPA). He said he had to do what he felt was right which was to hand over documents to the federal government.

He said whether charges are filed or not, he “doesn’t care anymore.” He said that last summer, 11 new construction policies where passed by the school board which resulted in the county “doing what was right by the taxpayers, right by the teachers and most importantly right by our students.”

Hildebrandt, running as a Democrat, is the former principal at Lively Technical School. He took credit as the “man responsible for cleaning up the construction (bidding policy) in Leon County.”

He said, “I discovered illegal activity…including overspending … paying contractors for substandard work, and multi-million dollars being purposely excluded for political reasons. In many, many years nothing has been bid or selected appropriately. Jackie Pons said give this contract to contractors A, B and C.”

Pons, who is running against Hildebrandt in the August Democrat primary, vehemently denied the charges, inferring they were politically motivated. “Every one of those projects were bid and were bid in the Tallahassee Democrat. Two individuals running for office put together a notebook full of wild allegations against me and my family,” he said. “I have had to deal with this for three years. I have never been interviewed by anyone for any wrong doing while I have served as your superintendent. After 40 some stories (in the Tallahassee Democrat) and what do we have today? False allegations and they’re both running for superintendent.”

Hildebrandt, who was arrested last year and faces felony charges for allegedly using Lively Tech’s welding materials to complete projects at his home was asked by Stewart about the charges against him.

Hildebrandt responded, “Jackie Pons is damn afraid. (These charges) will have no impact on my campaign. I am honest as the day is long. I’m gonna run against him and beat his ass.”

Van Camp, running as a Republican, said of the controversy, “It hurts to see what’s happened.”

Van Camp, a 36 year veteran of the school board, who served on the administrative staff for all superintendents since 1978 and six years on the Leon County School Board, referred to himself as an experienced granddaddy.

He said that kind of experience is what is needed in the superintendent’s office, “There has got to be some healing and we need someone with experience and patience.”

Van Camp was asked by Stewart to respond to accusations that he entered the contest to take votes from Hanna in the general election which could help Pons win.

“I got in the race because I am concerned with the lack of leadership,” he said.

He said even though he and Pons are personal friends, politically Van Camp is Pons’ “worse enemy.” Van Camp said he is very conservative and doesn’t agree with Pons’ more liberal ideas.

He continued, “I had to use $8,000 of my own money (to get in this race.) I assure you, I don’t like Jackie Pons that much.”

Patricia Ann Sunday (NPA) Former School Board member and retired state employee was asked about criticism that she is not a serious contender for superintendent because she is way behind in fund raising. “Since when does money mean someone is qualified for superintendent? Each of the other candidates have been connected for 20 to 40 years. Are schools any better? Who has stood up for our children?” she asked.

“No one,” she yelled, “No one.”

Hanna won a straw poll of the 120 NEBA members attending the forum. Pons finished second.

9 Responses to "School Superintendent Candidates Pull No Punches"

    1. I personally believe so…but not only that…Mr. Ted Thomas used to be on the Board of Realtors and when I was interviewed for the Real Estate Board endorsement Mr. Thomas was sitting in the room observing. He of course is Rocky Hanna’s step-father (I originally thought father in law). Thomas recently told me no Rocky is his SON. So now I have received my rejection notice from the Real Estate Board…so what do you want to bet that they selected his SON…Rocky. So much for special favoritism and I can tell you that that is going on every where I am going for Rocky. His favoritism with these special interest groups is spreading like his signs mushrooming everywhere. If this is any indication of how “honest” Rocky will be in the school system then how can he and his people call other people out? It is like the pot calling the kettle black.

  1. I comment as a friend of 25 years to Patricia A. Sunday. She discussed her decision at length with me about running for Superintendent of Tallahassee Schools, as I was her campaign manager when she ran for a Congressional office in Baton Rouge, La. If you want to understand her purpose for running, it is clearly spelled out on her Facebook page. She is deeply concerned with “politics” and “liberal thought” taking precedence over the basic education needs and well being of developing young minds. The purpose of education has become the indoctrination of an ideology through teaching and testing to subvert parental rights and beliefs. I, personally, sat with an instructor who described the Common Core curriculum, for example, in a manner that testing offered four possible right answers. The key for the student was to pick the “best” right answer as determined by the person who prepared the test. That should strike fear in your hearts. Other issues affecting the learning curve involved in a positive environment would be discipline, spending focus,social mentoring, and a wide variety of issues that can either be a huge plus, or a huge minus, in the development of independent thinking individuals.

    I covered all of the negative aspects of running with Ms. Sunday. She was not dissuaded from the sense she felt within herself that someone needed to take the part of the children. I am certain that is her motivation for undertaking an arduous task and she is intent on putting out the effort to win. She had to garner thousands of names on her own to get on the ballot. She worked tirelessly to do so, when I knew she was terribly ill with a respiratory ailment for the last weeks of the effort trading time between bed rest, medications to break the relentless attack of the virus, and needing to be at events to get signatures to support her candidacy. She is a legitimate candidate with legitimate concerns and a plan of action. She has no political axe to grind.

  2. This picture is priceless, the only one not smiling is Pons. Hopefully this will be his last term. Go Rocky!

  3. Ms. Sunday,
    Are you suggesting that Rocky Hanna has a paternity suit filed against him? Why has the Tallahassee Democrat and the Tallahassee Reports not reported this? I cannot imagine someone having a paternity suit against them running for Superintendent. I checked the financial report that Rocky filed I do not see any mention of a paternity suit or payments for child support. Are you sure? Rocky is running on honesty and being a champion for all children.

  4. Hope… please come say this to my face and let’s talk. I am nobody’s Pawn. As I stated I ran for this same office TWICE before. Where was Rocky then? Nobody had to ask me to run even though many people did…I made this decision myself. I do not appreciate your name calling. Maybe you are one of the “bible study” people. HA. I am the only one running for office besides Forrest Van Camp that does not have a paternity suit or some FBI investigation going on. I do not want to get in their fight so leave my name out of what and who did what so that I can keep it clean. Thank you.

    1. Duly noted; however, your sailing on the ship of wanting to keep it clean just sank with your paternity suit comment. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

  5. FACTS:
    There were irregularities of LCS contracts.
    There are trumped-up charges against a whistle blower.
    Sunday was approached by Pons people/Republicans as a pawn.
    I would follow the money on Van Camps’ $8,000 qualifying fee.

    GO ROCKY!!!

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