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April Griffin won’t seek another term on Hillsborough School Board

April Griffin will not run for re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, ending her tenure after more than a decade in office.

If she were to run later this year, Griffin is confident she would win. But after 12 years on the board, she believes she has done her duty.

In a statement Friday, Griffin said she believes that it’s time to move on with her life and career.

“Even when I accomplished my goals I always knew there is never an end to the battle to make our public schools great for all of our children,” she said.

Griffin is not enamored with any of the seven candidates who have already filed to run for the District 6 seat, so she is holding off endorsing anyone at this time.

She is making the announcement early in the election cycle “to give good candidates time to file and campaign for my seat.”

In the fall of 2013 Griffin also announced she would not run for re-election, leading to a flood of candidates then filing to run for what was perceived to be an open seat. But she later changed her mind, eventually winning that year by defeating Dipa Shah, despite Shah breaking fundraising records.

Griffin insisted she was sincere in opting not to run that year, but after whistleblowers emerged to criticize the leadership of then-Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, she felt an obligation to them, which fueled a desire to return to the race.

Upon learning of Griffin’s decision, Kelso Tanner — one of the most outspoken would-be opponents who has filed for the District 6 race — expressed skepticism.

“We’ve all heard that before,” he wrote in an email. “Ask me again when qualifying week has ended.”

In her statement, Griffin listed many accomplishments achieved during her three terms on the board, including an increase in the graduation rate from 64 percent to 83 percent; “doggedly” advocating for and being successful in closing the achievement gap with minority students; and adding more protections for special-needs children.

She also listed less-specific achievements, such as “making the tough decisions” and “woke up, shook up and broke up the good ol’ boy network.”

Always outspoken, Griffin frequently made news headlines, but it was her criticism of Elia which brought her the most attention, coming at a time when Elia had a sterling reputation among the media, political and business establishment.

After the 2014 election, Griffin had a few more allies who agreed with her questioning of the superintendent, leading to the stunning decision by the board to oust Elia in January of 2015. The move ignited intense criticism from the media and local officials like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Despite that pushback, only two members of the board have been up for re-election since — Cindy Stuart and Susan Valdes. Both won in 2016.

In a post on Facebook, Griffin wrote, “I have been living outside of my comfort zone trying to do what the powers that be say I need to do to be a good board member and I am not comfortable with that. I will no longer bend to that pressure. I have tried to ‘get along’ with people who are do not have the best interest of children and this district at heart and are creating manufactured chaos under the cover of darkness. I will accelerate my effort to shine a light on these toxic people and practices.”

In an interview this week with Florida Politics, the 48-year-old Griffin said she has opportunities and options, but did not say definitely what her plans will be.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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