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Four candidates vying for school board seat

By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

Four candidates are vying for the new, at-large District 6 seat on the Lee County School Board.

In 2014, Lee County voters approved expanding the school board from five to seven members. As of November, the five original seats will be elected from their district, while the two new seats – District 6 and District 7 – will be elected countywide. The five original seats had been voted on countywide.

In the Aug. 30 primary election, voters can pick among Don Armstrong, Charles Dailey, Richard Dunmire and Jane Kuckel for the District 6 seat. All of the school board races are non-partisan, meaning all voters can cast a ballot regardless of party affiliation.

The top two vote-getters will move on to Nov. 8 general election, according to the Elections Office. However, if a candidate earns over 50 percent of the votes in the primary, the seat is won outright.

* Don Armstrong

Age: 45

Residence: North Fort Myers

Occupation: Manager of plumbing company

Education: High school diploma

Family: Single parent with twins, ages 11

Born and raised in Lee County, Don Armstrong previously served on the school board in the District 4 seat before narrowly losing to Steve Teuber in a runoff in 2014.

Armstrong has voiced opposition to Common Core curriculum, high-stakes testing and raising taxes.

“I believe that there’s not a person on the board right now who can represent the average person, the blue-collar workers, the parents,” he said.

Armstrong noted that he is the only District 6 candidate with children enrolled locally.

“I have a deeper and better understanding of what’s going on in our schools day-to-day,” he said.

As for what his priorities would be if elected, Armstrong spoke out against Common Core.

“My top priorities will be academics,” he said. “To improve our academic standards.”

Armstrong wants to get the budget under control without increasing taxes.

“And bring the community support and the parents’ involvement back into the school district because that is one thing that we are sorely lacking,” he said.

According to Armstrong, several things set him apart from his opponents.

“Every one of my opponents are part of the establishment. They’ve been in the system for years and years,” he said, adding that he is just a regular parent and citizen. “I’m out in the world every day.”

Armstrong said one of his opponents talks of paying down debt – “the same debt she approved.”

He pointed out that he has not spent a lot of money on campaigning for the seat.

“I am the true conservative that’s running for the seat,” Armstrong said.

Along the same vein, he said he would not frivolously waste the district’s money.

“It is always about our kids,” Armstrong said.

For more information, visit his campaign website at: donniearmstrong.com/ or find him on Facebook by searching for “Don Armstrong for Lee County School Board.”

* Charles Dailey

Age: 64

Residence: Cape Coral

Occupation: Retired educator

Education: Bachelor’s in social studies, master’s in educational leadership and continuing education at The Principals’ Center at Harvard University

Family: Married with two adult children

With 31 years of work experience, Charles Dailey has served in multiple positions in the district, including as principal of at least five Lee County schools, dean of students at Cape Coral High School, transportation director of the East and West zones, and Adult and Community Education director.

“After serving in the district in all capacities, from school instruction and school administration, to district administration, I felt that it was extremely important,” he said about why he is running.

“When the voters unanimously decided to expand the board to seven seats, with the desire of increasingly diversity on the board, I felt it was a call to duty,” Dailey added.

Having served as coordinator for both the district’s Equity and Desegregation Office and Summer Minority Recruitment Grow Our Own Office, he wants to lend his past experience to the board.

Asked about his priorities if elected, Dailey pointed to the youth.

“Always know that the students must come first,” he said. “So you’re looking at student achievement that is tied in with focusing on an over half-billion dollar deficit.”

Dailey explained that the district needs an audit.

“Some type of device that instructs us on where we went wrong in the past, so that we won’t create those same mistakes,” he said.

Increasing access to and input from stakeholders is also key for Dailey.

“I would set up offices in all of the current zones,” he said. “We’ll be in those zones once a month to hear concerns from our constituents, ways that we can improve helping them with their children.”

Dailey cited his current work as an evaluator for an accreditation commission that analyzes school districts and schools as one thing that sets him apart from his opponents in the District 6 race.

“I think with the experience that I have gained with the many jobs that I’ve had to embrace and tackle, I’ve been blessed that I’ve been successful in every single one of those appointments,” he said.

Dailey has been endorsed by former Cape Police Chief Arnold Gibbs and the mayor of Fort Myers, was named Florida’s Administrator of Year and was picked for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame.

“I think it’s important to note that as a long-term resident of Cape Coral, former principal of Cape Coral High School, past president of the national Little League that was located at Verdow (Park), I have committed my time,” he said. “I have worked very hard and I’m asking for our citizens to support me, give me a chance so I can show them I’m worthy of their trust.”

“God has told us the more we receive, the more we should give back,” Dailey added. “I want to give back, as I have done over and over.”

For more information, visit his campaign website online at: www.cb4d6.com/ or find him on Facebook by searching for “Charles Dailey for District 6 Lee County.”

* Richard Dunmire

Age: 84

Residence: North Fort Myers

Occupation: Educator

Education: Bachelor’s in education and master’s in education supervision

Family: Married with three adult children

Entering his 57th year as a teacher, Richard Dunmire is a U.S. Army Korean War veteran who has positively impacted the lives of more than 8,000 students. Coaching wrestling and girls softball teams at a couple Lee schools, his ambition is to bring back the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Passion,” Dunmire said, naming one reason he is for running for the District 6 seat.

“Second thing is I can make a tremendous difference,” he added. “I’m a businessman and I have been for a long time – they don’t have anyone on the board who is a businessman.”

If elected, Dunmire would focus on providing a proper education to the 90,000-plus students.

“Children are, of course, the top priority,” he said. “We’re in a position where we need seven new schools. This new high school is going to cost us $100,000 million.”

Against a tax hike and for reducing the district’s debt and interest, Dunmire explained that the system has the resources and land to fund what is needed, other than just charging it on the “credit card.”

He pointed to teacher retention as another top priority.

“I’m a classroom teacher, so I know what we need to keep these people,” Dunmire said. “We must give them some security and that could come in the form of continuing contracts.”

Asked what separates him from his opponents, Dunmire noted that family members own the Shell Factory & Nature Park. As such, he works the park’s budget, handling million dollar contracts.

“What also is important is my business success,” he said. “At 84, I can bring many many years to the table, not only as a businessman, but experience inside the classroom and outside of the classroom.”

“I can make a difference,” Dunmire added. “I’m a leader.”

For more information, search on Facebook for “Richard Dunmire Elect The Teacher.”

* Jane Kuckel

Age: 73

Residence: Estero

Occupation: Retired

Education: Bachelor’s in elementary education, master’s in education leadership and supervision, and doctorate in curriculum and education leadership

Family: Married with one adult child

Hired by the district in 1997 as assistant superintendent, Jane Kuckel has a combined experience of more than 30 years as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. During her previous terms on the county school board, the district showed academic improvement each year for six years in a row.

“Four years ago, I decided not to run because everything in the district was going well,” she said.

According to Kuckel, Lee County was one of the top-rated districts in Florida and had seamlessly built 20 new schools and 18 build-outs with an unexpected growth of 5,000 to 7,000 new students per year.

“We had planned and budgeted,” she said. “We were able to handle that increased enrollment.”

Over the last four years, however, the district has seen a decrease in academic achievements. Kuckel added that it is behind in building the number of schools needed and there is no budget to do so.

“I can help to bring that situation back again,” she said.

Kuckel also pointed to the board shifting from five to seven members.

“I am a team builder, a team planner,” she said. “I think I can be very helpful in smoothing out that transition.”

For Kuckel, returning the school district to its prime would be a focus.

“To bring the district back to an A district and the pride in the community,” she said.

Securing classes for future students would also top Kuckel’s list of priorities.

“To work with the other board members and the superintendent to steer an ongoing funding to meet the growth needs of building schools within the district,” she said. “To help the district pull together as a team to make good solid decisions based on what is best for the students.”

Kuckel cited background as what sets her apart from her opponents.

“I understand education, my career has been in education. I understand what it will take to move the district forward,” she said, adding that she had served for 12 years. “I can hit the ground running and it won’t take me several months to understand the process. I understand the complexity of this district.”

“I have been so dismayed by what has happened over the past four years,” Kuckel added. “I love the Lee County School District. I am passionate about it.”

For more information, visit her campaign website online at: janekuckel.com/ or find her on Facebook by searching for “Dr. Jane Kuckel.”

The new, at-large District 7 seat on the Lee County School Board will also be on the primary ballot. Like the District 6 seat, the race is non-partisan and voters countywide will be able to cast a vote.

Districts 2 and 3 are also up this election, but only voters in Fort Myers can cast a ballot.