Although he’s familiar to many on campus, USF student Frank Hernandez plans to bring a fresh face to education in the Tampa Bay area.
On April 13, Hernandez, a graduate student majoring in education public policy, began campaigning for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board – a representative body that hires the Superintendent of Hillsborough County schools and oversees and votes on the local curriculum.
If he wins, his four-part platform will include closing the talent gap, supporting teachers, sustaining innovative programs and remaining a community leader, he said.
Hernandez, who also served as director of the Student Government (SG) Department of Diversity and Multicultural Awareness during the 2009-10 school year, said he believes that teacher evaluations should be done in a comprehensive way – a way that addresses parent involvement and creates talented students in the process.
“Among everything else in education, all percentages show that when parents are involved in that school, that student or school is successful,” he said. “Maybe teachers should be held accountable for how they are engaging parents. They should be evaluated on the students’ GPA and attendance. Did they come in with a C average and did they leave with a B average? Are students actually showing up to class? Sometimes there are teachers with poor attendance records.”
Another way Hernandez said education programs can be maintained is through responsible budgeting. With the proper resources and mentorship, Hillsborough County Public School teachers can earn more money for the work they do in the classroom, Hernandez said.
“What happens sometimes is that this program will do very well and the person or organization that is providing the grant money pulls out,” he said. “Because that county doesn’t want to lose (the program), it gets pushed into the bigger budget. If you’re constantly putting things into the budget. You’re going to have to make tough decisions like ‘we keep this program and not give our teachers a pay raise.'”
By remaining active in the community, Hernandez said he will avoid the stigma attached to focusing solely on politics.
“I think our community leaders get the opportunity and … (become) what is known as a career politician,” he said. “They are basing their needs on staying in office. I am a community leader, not a career politician.”
His cousin and campaign development officer, Danny Alvarez, said he trusts that Hernandez will fulfill these initiatives.
“We understand that to make our way in this country education is the way to do it,” Alvarez said. “We can always use fresh blood, but we’ve never had it so good in a candidate that encompasses all the things in a job description, and Frankie meets all those things.”
For three years, Hernandez served as Chairman of Delegation for the USF branch of ENLACE Florida, a “statewide network promoting college readiness, access and success for Latinos, African-Americans and other underrepresented students through non-partisan research, communication, advocacy and support,” according to its website.
This position required Hernandez to assemble USF students to scrutinize and adjust current education policies to benefit the system and students. In return, that information was communicated to ENLACE Florida officials at the annual Florida Education Policy Conference, where they debated policies they hope to lobby the Florida Legislature to change.
However, Hernandez said this barely allowed him to scratch the surface of education reform. In the school board race for District 2, there are two candidates – Hernandez and Candy Olsen, an incumbent who has held the position for 16 years. Voting begins Aug. 24. A runoff would be held Nov. 2 if neither candidate receives a majority of the vote.
“They want something new, something different, something fresh, something they haven’t heard of,” he said. “Somebody with a new vision and new voice that’s willing to work hard to represent the community, and that’s what I’m going to provide.”