Two candidates will face off this month for the District 5 seat on the Lee County School Board.
Pam LaRiviere and Carla Ronco will go up against each other in the Aug. 26 primary election. As the race is non-partisan and countywide, all registered voters in Lee County can cast a ballot. The District 5 seat is currently being held by Thomas Scott, who is also serving as the board's chairman; he is not seeking re-election.
The top vote-getter in the primary will win the seat, as they will have no opposition in November.
* Pam LaRiviere
Residence: Lehigh Acres
Occupation: Retired teacher
Asked why she is running for office, LaRiviere explained that she taught for 31 years.
"As a former teacher, I would watch and pay attention to decisions made via the school board and the directions that were taking place in the school district and would feel frustrated," she said.
"I care about the students, and I care about the teachers," LaRiviere added. "I want to be part of the people that set policy, so that we can do what's best for the students."
She pointed to the district dropping from a B to a C this past year as one issue.
"I know people are all concerned about the district grade," LaRiviere said. "We all are."
She also voiced concern over the Common Core State Standards.
"One of the issues I would like to address is to ensure that we are not involved with as many of the pieces of Common Core as possible," LaRiviere said. "Common Core is definitely an issue and some of the effects that came with that."
She noted that teachers should have the autonomy to use whatever materials and instructional pieces they see fit to ensure that students do their best.
"Look at the assessments given to students and have the teachers work alongside the district coordinators to determine which assessments they can get rid of," LaRiviere said.
Working with her peers to create a more collaborative school board that "functions with a true sense of purpose" would be another focus of hers, as well as improving employee treatment in the district.
"We just need to move away from bullying or intimidation tactics," LaRiviere said. "To ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity."
If elected to the seat, one of her first priorities would be to reach out to the schools.
"I would like to visit as many schools as possible just so they know I'm available. I want to hear their needs and concerns," LaRiviere said. "I want to learn, I want to listen, so that I can serve as best as possible."
* Carla Ronco
Occupation: Owner of real estate company
Ronco is a former educator and a parent, with two children in the Lee County school system.
"I haven't been real happy with what's been going on, and I know there needs to be change," she said. "I can't complain unless I'm willing to do something about it."
"I want to try to make the district a better place for all kids," Ronco added.
She called for a stop to the Common Core State Standards.
"I know a lot of parents are very upset about Common Core and, as Lee County, I don't think we need to go there," Ronco said, noting that the public needs a fuller picture of what the standards are about.
"I want to stop the amount of excessive unnecessary testing," she said.
Ronco pointed to a need for a student-based budget and a return to an A-grade district.
Working on retaining good teachers is another priority of hers, along with making sure high school seniors and juniors are better prepared for the SAT and ACT. She explained that many students with great grades have not performed as well on the tests as anticipated, which impacts college options.
"No teacher goes into it thinking, 'I'm going to make some money here,'" Ronco said, explaining that teachers have a passion for it. "But, after awhile, it's just not worth it anymore. They can't take it."
She also noted the district's need for new schools within the next five years.
"Our community is growing again. We need to make sure that we're ready, so we don't have to do double sessions," she said, citing it as a top priority if she were elected. "We need to really look and see where we're going to get the funding because it's not there."
Another of Ronco's priorities is seeing the School Choice program modified.
"I'm not a politician, and I don't have all the answer right now, but I am a parent," she said. "I'm in it for the kids."