There are a total of six candidates running for two seats on the Leon County School Board in two districts that span the Northeast part of Leon County.
Three candidates are running for District 4, which became open when Board member Dee Dee Rasmussen decided to step down before her term expired.
District 4 covers an area that is west of Thomasville Road to North Monroe and roughly North of I-10.
The candidates seeking the position include Laurie Cox, Alex Stemle, and Susan Hodges.
Laurie Cox was the first to get in the race to replace Dee Dee Rasmussen. Since her entrance, Alex Stemle and Susan Hodges have filed to run.
Laurie Cox was raised in Tallahassee and attended Leon County schools. After graduating from Leon High, she attended Tallahassee Community College and then transferred to Auburn University, where she earned a degree in education. After three years of teaching in Georgia, Cox returned to Tallahassee, where she has been an educator for 33 years.
Regarding the challenges Leon County Schools are facing now, Cox said that learning loss due to the pandemic is a major issue. “We need to make sure we are targeting those students that have not been in school for whatever reason, and make sure we get them back on track,” Cox said.
Cox believes there is excessive misinformation surrounding the parental rights bill, and she encouraged people to take the time to read it. She agrees parents should be notified if changes are made regarding their child, and she fully supports the bill.
On activism in the classroom, Cox insisted “that a student should never know where their teacher stands political, socially, or even spiritually,” Cox insisted. “We need to get back to teaching our standards.”
Cox believes she is the best candidate for the job because she has been an educator for 33 years, has excellent relationships with teachers in many different schools, and is interested in their concerns. She also stated that she wants to work together to address their concerns and develop solutions.
Alex Stemle, a native of Tallahassee, graduated from Florida State University with a master’s degree in business administration. He also earned a second master’s degree in educational leadership from the American College of Education.
Stemle has had a long career in education, working in District 4 schools as a classroom teacher, a dean of students, and an athletics director. Currently, Stemle serves as the assistant principal at Amos P. Godby High School.
However, if he wins the school board position, he will resign from his role at Godby to avoid conflict.
Stemle previously ran against incumbent Dee Dee Rasmussen in 2020 and lost.
“A lot of the challenges we had in our schools prior to the pandemic, we still have in our schools,” Stemle explained when asked why he is running again. “I personally see the challenges our schools go through. I’m in those schools, and the experience I have, I think I can bring to the board and ask the right questions.”
Stewart asked the school board candidate what he believes are the top issues Leon County Schools are facing now.
Stemle asserted that school safety and mental health are a top priority. He wants to have the ability to verify that the district is doing everything it can to protect students.
Another issue Stemle says he will focus on is giving educators and parents a voice. “It is important that school board members get on campus, that they talk with teachers, talk with parents, that they return phone calls, that they show up for meetings, and that they vote on issues…I’ll be that voice for parents,” Stemle said.
Stemle addressed the issue of teachers being active on social media related to political issues.
“They have rights as people, outside of their school day, but they do take a pledge to do what’s best for students, day in and day out. So, I would say to them that when we get into these debates online, it is not helping us to do our job, and it’s a tough job that teachers do.”
Stemle expressed that school officials should notify parents about personal issues their child might be facing when asked about parental rights.
The third candidate for the District 4 seat is Susan Hodges. On the campaign trail Hodges has applauded the work of the Moms for Liberty group.
Hodges has provided a detailed campaign platform on her website.
On school safety she states, “Our schools do not meet the standards of compliance of the state requirements for the Guardian Program. Our children’s lives should be guarded with our own blood, sweat, and tears…”
On the controversy related to gender and sexuality issues in the classroom, Hodges states that “we need to protect our children from indoctrination. They are not old enough or wise enough to make decisions about sexuality. We need to stand for and guard their innocence.”
On the parental rights legislation, Hodges believes “we need to invite every parent back into the classrooms. I completely support the Parental Rights bill and believe parents should vote on what is being taught to our children. We need to take back control of our children’s education.”
Hodges also believes “we need to revamp the curriculum altogether. We need to return to classes such as Civics, Life Skills, Home Economics, classes that teach budgeting and other critical skills that will set our children up for success.”