Conversations with the School Board


Kenley Shible

School boards are quite important in ensuring that students receive a quality education that prepares them for a future of success and achievement.

School boards across the countries have come into the public spotlight as they become places for political discourse in a way that has not been witnessed in years. Florida has become a hotbed for new “culture war” issues, and many students have felt worried about their future under new laws passed by the Florida State Legislature recently, which impact the way that schools are run. We have been given the opportunity to speak with Lisa Kane, the current chairperson of the Pinellas County school board, and discuss some of the recent changes within the school board. 

What is your experience in education? 

“I own the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Academy, where I have taught musical theater and voice and dance for the last 15 years.”

How do you feel about recent changes in the school system?

“I’ve seen a drastic difference in the pace…. I feel like the private world, the corporate world, had been moving at lightning speed for a while and continue to get faster, but things run by the government not so much.” “Everything was behind from the way we communicate to parents, the way we communicate with staff; all of those things I’ve seen a huge change in the last like two-three years where I feel like we’re starting to catch up which is good.”

What is your role on the school board, and how long have you served?

“Well, my role right now… currently, I’m the chairperson, and so it’s not too much different from being a regular school board member. One is running the govt procedure of the meeting itself.” “The second thing is that it requires you to be present at a lot more events representing the board.” 

What is your opinion on the anti-woke agenda?

“I think the anti-woke agenda is making a lot of waves. I don’t know where that’s gonna go because I think there are some aspects of it that are undefined, and until we come to a point as a society where it’s defined, I think we’re going to keep struggling with it.”

We’ve been reviewing footage of past meetings and found the public comments to be the most intriguing. There are so many speeches with a lot of emotional charge. How, in a place of authority, do you deal with having to address accusations publicly? 

“… Most of the time, when people come at you with accusations, they’re looking for you either to have an angry response or they’re looking for you to say something that either supports their narrative… If it’s not true, you really have to let it roll off your back.”

What changes can a student expect to see in their day-to-day school routines?

 “So far, I don’t think there’s gonna be necessarily a daily impact; however, certain schools are definitely going to be impacted. We’re still waiting to hear from the legislators [about] how the finances of this bill are going to affect us locally. Without that information, even  the school district is struggling to predict how this might affect us.”

What’s your opinion on censorship in the school system?

“I don’t think that we should be censoring education because I think that education truly is the ability to think critically … I think it’s important to develop the ability to think critically,  but I think that we have to be doing that at a reasonably age-appropriate level.”

Will clubs such as BSA (Black student association) and GSA (Gay straight alliance) be impacted or removed?

“I haven’t seen any piece of legislation or anything that would suggest that clubs like that would be censored or removed from schools.”

How does the district plan to deal with teacher shortages that may result from a more restrictive public curriculum? 

“That is a strong possibility…I think one of the major factors that may factor into additional teacher shortages is these bills affecting the teacher unions.”

Will resources such as the “Black Life in America ” module on Clever and LGBTQ+ mental health resources remain available to students despite the introduction of new policies from the Florida Legislature?

“I’ve heard no plan of removing them at this point.”

How do you feel about the proposition for partisan school boards recently passed in the Florida House?

Well, my honest opinion is that a lot of it is done partisan anyway. I don’t like the idea that it would impact independent voters, though. It’s kind of a disservice to those who truly do align independently.”

School boards are quite important in ensuring that students receive a quality education that prepares them for a future of success and achievement, and our conversations with Lisa Kane show that so many on the Pinellas County School Board deeply care for students and only want the best for them. Although school boards have been so politicized recently, much of their importance has been lost in the face of empty gestures that often harm school boards rather than help them. It’s important that in creating policy, the people who will be affected are considered.