Racial equality at the center of Pinellas County School Board race

Karl Nurse is the only White candidate in a reliably minority district.

The race for Pinellas County’s School Board District 7 seat could lead to an all-white school board. 

The seat is currently contested by four primary candidates — Caprice Edmond, Corey Givens Jr., Sharon Jackson and Karl Nurse. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to the General Election for a runoff on Nov. 3.

However, the candidate leading the race in fundraising and who is backed by the Tampa Bay Times has drawn criticism from local leaders for running in the county’s only reliable minority district.  

Nurse is the only white candidate in the race for District 7, which has been the board’s only minority seat for years. It is the only single-member district with more than 10% Black voters — District 4 has just 3% Black voters, District 6 just 4% and District 5 10%. If he wins, the Pinellas County School Board will not have a single person of color.

Pinellas County Schools are made up of a student population that is 54.1% White, 18.9% Black, 17.7% Hispanic and 4.6% Asian. 

A Black school board member has held the seat for well over a decade, with Rene Flowers occupying the seat since 2012, Lew Williams before her and Mary Brown before him. Brown was the first African American elected to the School Board, a milestone the Black community didn’t achieve until 2002.

The seat opened after Flowers stepped down to run for Pinellas County Commission. 

Nurse, a former St. Petersburg City Council member, has raised the most of the four candidates, $50,345; however, $40,000 of that came from Nurse himself. He has also spent the most, at $31,197.

Following Nurse is Edmond, who has raised $32,057, and has spent $27,478. Edmond is an educator in Pinellas County, and has been endorsed by local community leaders, including the SEIU. Nurse came under fire for misleading campaign flyers distributed implying the SEIU supported him.

Givens, also a Pinellas County educator, and Jackson, who has played the role of teacher, counselor, principal and professor, raised $16,658 and $7,670, respectfully. Both candidates have kept spending under $10,000. 

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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