School Board says farewell to three long-time members

From left, Terry Krassner was defeated during the Aug. 28 School Board elections. She served on the Board for eight years after 35 years as an educator. Linda Lerner is retiring from the Pinellas County School Board after 28 years of service. Peggy O’Shea was defeated in the Nov. 6 runoff election. She served on the School Board for 12 years.

LARGO – The Pinellas County School Board thanked three of its long-time members for their service during a somewhat emotional end of the Nov. 13 meeting.

School Superintendent Michael Grego talked about the leadership the three had brought to the District during their collective nearly 50 years of service.

“The District is a better place than it has ever been before,” he said, pointing to improved graduation rates, improved programs, work done to address the achievement gap and better fiscal responsibility.

“You’ve left a legacy,” he said.

Grego was speaking to Linda Lerner, Peggy O’Shea and Terry Krassner.

Lerner is the Board’s longest-serving member. She has represented District 6 since 1990 – 28 years. She chose not to run for re-election this year. The voters picked Bill Dudley to take her place during the Nov. 6 runoff election.

Before her service on the Board, Lerner was a teacher and counselor. She also worked as director of education support services

O’Shea was first elected to represent District 3 in 2006 and has served for 12 years. She was defeated in the Nov. 6 runoff election by Nicole Carr. Prior to her first election, she was appointed by the governor to serve as chairwoman of the Early Learning Coalition.

Krassner has represented District 2 since 2010 – eight years. She was defeated in the Aug. 28 election. Lisa Cane will take her seat, having come out on top during the runoff election. Krassner is a former elementary and middle school teacher, assistant principal and principal.

Krassner thanked everyone involved in working to make the School District successful.

“You’re as good as the people you’re surrounded by,” she said.

She pointed out that although she had only served on the board eight years, she has 35 years of experience working with schools.

O’Shea said it had been a “privilege to serve,” adding, “Everyone working together had created the improvements.”

“Now that the three of us aren’t under the Sunshine (Law), we can get together and have a conversation,” she said. “You’ll be hearing from us.”

Lerner spoke the longest and highlighted the others who were leaving by talking about their “many, many years of dedication to the community and the School Board.”

“We’re in the best place we’ve ever been,” she said. “All of you really put us here.”

Lerner said all the District’s employees were “the best,” pointing out that "they are all educators."

“Everyone who works in the District educates students to prepare for college, career and life,” she said.

Lerner said she had attended 600 meetings over the years.

“I remember my first agenda book,” she said. “It had $50,000 for canned pears. We serve fresh fruit now.”

She said although she was retiring, she would still be involved.

“This has been one of the greatest privileges of my life,” she said.

School Board Member Carol Cook teared up a bit as she told the three that it had been “an honor to serve with you.”

“It’s been a pleasure to be on the Board. We challenge each other and we have different opinions, but we still have respect,” she said. “We keep the children No. 1. The District and its students are better because of the work you’ve done.”

Board Chairwoman Rene Flowers also talked about all three women, but highlighted the institutional knowledge that would be lost when Lerner leaves.

“I’m going to miss your little laugh,” Flowers told Lerner. “And your ‘I wasn’t going to say anything’ and then you say everything.”

“I look forward to all three of you holding us accountable to make sure the District’s education is No. 1,” Flowers said.

In other business, the Board:

• Unanimously approved a tentative agreement with the Pinellas Educational Support Professional Association that includes a 2.55 percent pay raise, retroactive to July 1. In addition, the Board will pay the 86 percent increase in healthcare costs and $1.9 million for the increased Florida Retirement System contribution. Total compensation increase is 3.55 percent. Financial impact to the District is $1,311,801.

• Unanimously approved a tentative agreement with Service Employees International Union/Florida Public Services Union that also includes a 2.55 percent raise, payment of the 86 percent increase in healthcare costs and additional contribution to the Florida Retirement System. Financial impact is $1,389,497.

• Unanimously approved salary increases of 2.55 percent for administrators, professional/technical/supervisory and non-represented (union) support staff. The School Board will pay $4.9 million of the $5.7 million increase in healthcare costs, as well as the $1.9 million for the increase Florida Retirement System contribution. Financial impact is $1,668,651.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. Email her at sporter@tbnweekly.com.

Revised to correct the winner in the District 2 race and correct the date of the school board election.