Corey Givens Jr. knows much will be made of his age and his “experience” during the race for the District 7 seat for the Pinellas County School Board. He knows he is not the type of person that usually gets elected to this position.
Givens Jr., a 20-year-old college student at USF, says his youth and lack of political experience should be seen as a positive rather than a negative going into a race dominated by those who have little idea of what it is like to be a student in the Pinellas County School system.
“I would bring a little diversity to the board,” Givens Jr. said. “Diversity with my race, my age and opinions. I’m fresh out of the school system and know where problems are from the point of view of the students.”
In 2010, Givens Jr. graduated from Lakewood High. He received his associate’s degree from Florida State University and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science with a minor in economics at the University of South Florida.
One of the most significant problems the district is facing, Givens Jr. said, is the disconnect between the board/administration and the student body.
“I feel like the students are being under represented. We are forgetting about the main ones we should be representing,” he said. “I (feel) like the focus (on students) has been lost and goals lost in the process.”
Givens Jr. said one of his first priorities when he gets into office would be combating a high dropout rate in the district, especially in what would be his district.
In District 7, which encompasses much of St. Petersburg and Gulfport, Givens Jr. said the dropout rate among African Americans is more than 30 percent.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “We don’t have enough mentors … don’t have enough positive leadership within the community in District 7.”
According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office, Givens Jr. is one of five "active" candidates vying for the District 7 seat. The other candidates are Keisha Ann Bell, Rene Flowers, Cassandra Jackson and Glenton Gilzean.
Gilzean is currently representing District 7. He was after school board member in December 2011.
Other issues/ideas Givens Jr. wants to address include:
- Increase terms for participants on advisory committees and councils.
- Partner with Pinellas communities to assist economically challenged families.
- Increase the district’s focus on technology benefits to education.
- Promote the replace of Norm-reference testing (FCAT) with Criterion-reference testing.
- Pursue parent dialog and input, not just during the budget process, but also throughout the year.
“I think voters should realize age is nothing but a number,” Givens Jr. said. “Most adults, at one point in time, you become out of touch with students.”
“I’d like voters to know that I’m un-bought and un-bossed,” he added. “I don’t have a political agenda behind me. Don’t have a political resume. I come with a desire to serve.”
Dunedin's District 4 is currently represented by School Board Chair Robin Wikle.