Olson’s Fourth Bid to Represent the Tampa Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

The Tampa schools are part of the Hillsborough County School Board, and Candy Olson has represented the south Tampa schools for 12 years. The nonpartisan District 2 covers the south Tampa schools and curves into part of southwest Hillsborough County. Olson has twice been chairman of the school board.

The 58-year-old mother of two has faced challengers only once during her three previous bids for her school board seat. This year she faces two challengers, who want to represent the south Tampa schools — Logan Cobb, a 17-year-old high school senior, and Bart Birdsall, a middle school media specialist. According to the Tampa Tribune, neither challenger for the south Tampa schools has raised much capital or waged much of a campaign against Olson.

During the 12 years Olson has represented the south Tampa schools, she has seen the district grow by more than 50,000 students. It is now the nation’s ninth largest school district.  She has helped decide hundreds of policies and personnel decisions, many of which affect the Tampa schools, and has seen the district managed by three different superintendents.

With a master’s degree in business administration, Olson’s pet peeve is to reduce the myriad of forms used by the district and the bureaucratic paperwork — a goal that continues to elude her.

During her tenure, Olson pushed the district to develop a school choice plan to give parents more options, which was implemented in 2004. She fostered partnerships between local libraries and schools, including those in south Tampa schools area and the Nature’s Classroom, an outdoor classroom for science study. She has been supportive of teachers’ issues, speaking out or bucking popular thought, when necessary. Though she comes on strong at times, she admittedly has learned to hold her tongue from the dais, especially when someone makes (what she considers) a dumb comment to her.

Two issues are pending before the board for this school year. One is whether to add more religious holidays to the school calendar. The second, a more controversial issue, is whether to make a policy that restricts soda and unhealthy foods in schools. The district currently needs to renegotiate their PepsiCo contract; however, they would like more discussion on this issue before proceeding.

Olson believes the most important priorities for the board this year continues to be student achievement, growth and developing a plan to reach children of uninvolved parents. 

Olson is a former director of finance and planning for the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office in Tampa and information officer for the Boston Mayor’s office.  According to the Tribune, she has raised nearly $20,000 in reported campaign contributions and loans, mostly from lawyers, educators and current district administrators. She is endorsed by the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers’ Association.