Q: Can you give us your thoughts on the half cent sales tax referendum that was approved by Duval County voters on Nov. 3?
A: I think it is significant that out of 99 precincts in Duval County, the referendum passed in 97 of them, including every precinct in Mandarin.
This shows the broad base of support for an investment in our public schools throughout our city.
Q: Do you know yet any timelines for use of the money?
A: The district will bond the first of the year and projects will begin by the spring or summer. Some of the first projects that will occur in District 7 will include removal of portables at Mandarin High School and an additional wing. Projects at Mandarin Oaks, Crown Point, Loretto elementaries will also be some of the first to be done.
Q: Do you have an update on the Citizens Oversight Committee?
A: This committee is organized by the school board to oversee the projects to be completed with funds from the referendum, basically to ensure that the dollars coming in are spent as they should be spent. The committee will meet quarterly and each member will serve a two-year term. The committee consists of 21 members, including business and civic leaders as well as a member nominated by each school board member. I have asked Allison Bustil to represent District 7 on the Citizens Oversight Committee. She is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville and attended public schools. She is an engineer and currently working in the field with an emphasis on security. Ms. Bustil is also a parent and her children attend school in Mandarin.
Q: What do you know at this point about the continuation of distance learning past the first semester of this school year?
A: The governor has indicated that he will mandate the return of all students to brick and mortar in January. School districts that continue with virtual instruction would be financially penalized. The decision is not up to our school board, as the threat of a funding loss for each student not in the brick and mortar classroom would be harmful to the district. If you believe in choice options for parents and students, I encourage you to reach out to the governor and local state representatives and express your concern.
Q: Do you have anything else to share with District 7?
A: A couple things. First, on Nov. 17, I was sworn in for my second term. I am honored to have the privilege to continue representing you on the school board.
Second, at the workshop in November, I introduced a resolution to the board regarding the relocation of the district office from the riverfront. The location of the board office, when it was placed 35 years ago, was next to a treatment plant in an effort to grow the Southbank. Over the years, things have changed and development is now happening in the area, so this resolution seems like good timing. The board has never had a formal conversation about moving.
This resolution will be voted on Dec.1. A workshop would then be held in the spring. The district owns the land and the building. It is the goal to be able to make the potential move with proceeds from the sale of the current property.
Q: How can our readers contact you?
A: They can email me at HersheyL@duvalschools.org or call me at (904) 316-3609.