The six candidates for two Nassau County School Board seats dwindled to four after the Primary, and now two runoffs are set for Election Day to decide who will be on the Board in Districts 1 and 3.
School Board member Jamie Deonas, the current District 3 member, is running for the District 1 open seat against educator Shannon Hogue. He won election and re-election previously without opposition.
Deonas was one of the more vocal members of the Board regarding the need for a 1 mill property tax increase to help deal with the pressure put on the school district and its staff by the county’s extraordinary growth and high standard of living.
“I’ve had the pleasure of sitting here for the past two terms, and I’ve watched this district save, cut, do more with less, and it’s everywhere,” Deonas said at a Board meeting. “It not just affects teachers, it affects everybody for our district.”
An educator for more than 20 years, Hogue is currently the reading coach at Emma Love Hardee Elementary.
“Our schools are ‘A’ rated, and I want us to maintain this level of success,” Hogue said in her campaign announcement.
“To do this, we must think of ways to retain our teachers and also attract new staff. You may already know the district has a high teacher turnover rate. If this continues, maintaining our ‘A’ rating will be more difficult. When schools’ ratings begin to drop, so do our property values. We must be proactive for our community.”
In the first round of voting, Hogue topped the field with 46.6% of the vote. But in nonpartisan races, the top vote-getter needed to receive 50% of the votes, plus one, to avoid a November runoff.
Hogue won most precincts, but Deonas squeaked out a plurality at the River Road Baptist Church location. Rick Pavelock, the third candidate in the race, was eliminated. He received 19.6% of the votes cast.
The Nassau Teachers’ Association (NTA) endorsed Hogue in District 1, while putting their support with former West Nassau High School Principal Curtis Gaus in District 3.
“I am thrilled to have earned the trust of the hardworking teachers of Nassau County Schools,” Gaus said in a statement following the endorsement. “I pledge to work with the teachers and the district to find ways to retain quality teachers and keep the Nassau County School District at the top of the state.”
Gaus and Albert Wagner are running for the open District 3 seat, having eliminated David Dew in the Primary.
Wagner, a former teacher at Yulee Elementary School, is presently the assistant principal at Windy Hill Elementary in Duval County. He came in third in a three-way race for Nassau County School Superintendent in 2020, drawing 10.2% of the vote.
“My experience of almost 20 years in education will give me the foresight in understanding how board decisions will affect your individual child(ren) in the classroom,” Wagner said in a social media post at the outset of the campaign.
“From classroom teachers to district leaders fleeing our district for Georgia, to the safety of our students, to equality of compensation for our staff, to fulfilling (individualized education plan) accommodations with certified and trained staff, to expanding business partnerships, to fiscal transparency, etc.”
Gaus, who left West Nassau in 2020, is the principal at Bronson Middle-High School in Levy County.
Dew, after departing the race, endorsed Gaus and Hogue. In an Oct. 27 post, Dew asked voters to think about who is out helping with students during the campaign’s crunch time.
“Who is putting in hard work volunteering to make sure a concession stand is staffed,” Dew said. “Who is working a full day teaching a class and then spending the afternoons listening to students’ concerns? Who thinks of our district as more than just a paycheck, and dedicates most of their free time putting your kids first? Which candidate’s heart is truly in it for the right reasons?
“I know who is going to put my 10-year-old, 5th grade son, his classmates and also your kids first.”