Student, school boardcandidate sees finish line

By the end of today, Frank Hernandez may be able to add “Hillsborough County School Board member” to his resume.

Hernandez, a graduate student majoring in education and public policy, is currently campaigning against Candy Olsen, an incumbent who has held the position for 16 years. As a member of the school board, Hernandez would be a part of a representative body that hires the superintendent of Hillsborough County schools and oversees and votes on the local curriculum.

Because there are only two candidates for the Hillsborough County seat, the primary
election, which begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m., will determine the ultimate outcome of the position.

“Because our race is a non-partisan race and there’s only two candidates it’s sort of similar to what happens at USF,” he said. “If somebody gets 50 percent of the vote, they automatically win and there’s no run-off. And because there’s only two candidates, somebody will get 50 percent of the vote.”

Over the past four months, Hernandez has campaigned under a four-pronged platform – closing the talent gap, supporting teachers, sustaining innovative programs and remaining a community leader – while also combating discrepancies with his job title as Student Government (SG) Director of Governmental Affairs.

In July, the St. Petersburg Times requested his resume and printed an article stating
that “his written record, including job titles on his campaign site, says nothing about student government.” When the article was printed, Hernandez’s titles on his site were listed
as “director of government affairs” and “director of diversity and multicultural awareness” – two positions in the university Division of Student Affairs.

The story also includes an interview with Lara Wade, USF communications news director, in which she states, “To be accurate, it really should say student government director of government affairs and student government director of diversity. I would say that the university would like to ask him about it, and try to account for the discrepancy. It is taken seriously.”

However, Hernandez said that the statement from Wade was misleading. “The question he asked the spokesperson from USF was a hypothetical question,” he said. “You know ‘If he was portraying himself incorrectly what would happen?’ and that was the response given and that was what he used to base his story off of. If we’re going to report on hypothetical (questions), then I don’t know what kind of reporting that is.”

SG President Cesar Hernandez, said he agrees that the statement was taken out of context.

“I talked to Frank about it … and he apologized and told me that ‘I should’ve put more thought … into the moves that I make.’ He said it was a miscommunication,” he said. “To have a student from this university to go ahead and run for school board and represent this university, as a student, I think it’s an absolute amazing, amazing job.”

Frank Hernandez said he did not allow the story to “deter” from campaigning, and is “excited” to learn the outcome of tonight’s vote.

“I guess I’m in a surreal state right now,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work – a lot of people have put a lot of time and energy into this. I hope this shows a kind of example (where) it doesn’t matter how old you are or how much or little experience you have, if you want to be involved and you want to be a part of your community, you can do it. You have that right as a citizen of the United States – you can do it.”