Voters fed up with look-alike candidates won't have much trouble discerning Bill Cake from Virginia Zele.
Cake, a Democrat, is vying with Zele, a Republican, for election in District 5 to the Alachua County School Board. Current District 5 board member Carolyn Kitchens is not running again.
Cake, 55, is a career educator with 30 years' experience as an administrator, teacher and principal in the county school district. Zele, 31, is a faculty member at the University of Florida's department of medicine who, until the race began, had little experience in schools.
Cake says he wants to "restore confidence and respect" in the school system, while Zele says it should admit the faults it has.
"There are a lot of things that people will say, `These things need to be improved,' " she said, "and a lot of (achieving that) is acknowledging that, `Yes, we need to make some changes.' "
Although the race between the two can easily be characterized as insider vs. outsider, Cake takes exception to the negative connotations of being called an insider in the current political climate.
"We're at a time where it's anti-Clinton, anti-Chiles, anti-anything on the inside, and I'm sort of caught up in that," he said. "I'm classified as an insider . . . but as an insider, you still get to where you have lots of insights as to what's wrong with the system."
Zele is pushing "the three Rs" in her campaign: "responsibility in fiscal matters, respect for authority and redirection of classroom control" to give more power to teachers to make decisions.
"But my main thing is to say that classroom education has to be first," she said. "That means you have to fund for a lower teacher ratio and you have to pay the teachers and you have to have better supplies in the classroom."
One change Cake hopes to make is to create a center for students who are suspended from school so that they aren't simply sent home.
"If you're suspended today, tomorrow you come back on a bus to my school and you get on a bus and you go to an alternative center," he said.
Zele supports public school choice, a cause being lobbied by current board member Judy Brashear, though she says the final form it takes will "depend on what the community wants."
Cake has more specific ideas, proposing that magnet programs be established at certain schools to maintain racial balance, which he gives more importance than Zele, who does not rank it as a priority.
Both candidates have appeared at numerous forums, political events and meetings during the campaign. In campaign disclosure forms submitted Sept. 30, Cake listed his total expenditures as $6,205.13. Zele's expenditures totaled $7,832.87. For each candidate, the bulk of the funds consisted of campaign contributions.
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