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Largo teacher to head Pinellas school union

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CLEARWATER — After seven years with former teacher Kim Black at the helm, the Pinellas Classroom Teacher Association has a new president and vice president.

Mike Gandolfo, a history teacher at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo, beat out three other long-time Pinellas teachers to become the organization’s president Thursday with 72 percent of members votes. Susan Spaulding, a third grade teacher at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo, was elected vice president. More than 1,500 of the approximately 4,000 eligible union members submitted votes to their school union rep Wednesday.

“I feel anxious and ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” Gandolfo said in an e-mail.

Term limits prevented Black from running for re-election. Both Gandolfo and Spaulding can serve up to two three-year terms. Black will retain her position until mid-June, when Gandolfo, 52, takes over.

A first-generation Italian-American raised in New York, Gandolfo graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in business management and spent almost 18 years as the owner and operator of his own restaurant before going into teaching. Since earning a master’s degree in history and being hired by the school district in 2004, Gandolfo has worked as an eighth-grade American History teacher. He also is cochairman of the PCTA’s Human Civil Rights Committee, sits on the union’s executive board and government relations committee, and represents the PCTA at the Central Labor Council.

Teachers face a number of challenges in the coming years, and the “flawed” teacher evaluation system, excessive student testing, and legislators’ siphoning of funds from public education are just a few of the issues that will be met head-on, Gandolfo said.

“There are dozens of issues that lack common sense and we will not dodge a single challenge,” Gandolfo said in an e-mail. “I want to speak to the membership and find out how best to address their needs. I want every member to feel that they are an important part of a great organization.”

Gandolfo beat out current union vice president of seven years Richard Wisemiller, a science teacher at Tarpon Springs Middle School who received 13 percent of votes, Gibbs High School social studies teacher Rick Bose with 8 percent, and Richard L. Sanders School math teacher Don Manly with 6 percent.

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