MANATEE COUNTY — Two East County residents are facing off for a chance to replace incumbent Jane Pfeilsticker on the Manatee County School Board’s District 3 seat.
Julie Aranibar and Albert Yusko have announced their candidacy against Pfeilsticker, who originally had planned to serve only one four-year term on the school board.
But Pfeilsticker has decided to run again, saying she wants to make sure the programs she put into motion over the last four years are working effectively and to complete a project on which she is working currently.
“I have met most of the goals I set,” said Pfeilsticker, a molecular geneticist. “I continue to want to enhance science and math education. (Data shows) economic growth in a given area is directly promotional to achievement in science and math.”
Pfeilsticker is working on a joint venture project between Sarasota and Manatee county public schools and the State College of Florida to create a biotechnology educational facility and accompanying programs. The program would allow teachers and students to learn sophisticated lab techniques on state-of-the-art equipment and give students skills that are in high demand in the workforce, she said.
Aranibar, a longtime volunteer in Manatee County schools and former Manatee County Board of County Commissioners candidate, shares Pfeilsticker’s background in science, although she presently volunteers full-time.
Yusko has little experience in Manatee County Public Schools but has spent more than 20 years teaching seminary and at Bible schools. He said he believes his background in business and ministry will benefit Manatee schools.
School board elections will be held Aug. 24.
As a child, candidate Aranibar never had dreams of going to college.
Raised on welfare in a poor neighborhood, she couldn’t see herself with a different future. But when she was 10 years old, Aranibar contracted tuberculosis and was placed in a sanitarium for treatment.
“No one wanted to teach me,” Aranibar said. “A teacher came that had never had children. She became not only a teacher but (also) a mentor. She taught me table manners. She introduced me to plays, music. All on her own time, she did this.”
Inspired to earn a better education, years later Aranibar started at a community college, working her way through school over a 12-year period to become a researcher and molecular istologist.
“I truly understand that education process,” Aranibar said. “I can understand why people would want to give up. It’s not easy to overcome the obstacles. That’s why I serve on the (Manatee Technical Institute) board now.”
As a mother of two high school freshmen, Aranibar has been volunteering in Manatee schools since 1999.
Over the last decade, Aranibar has chaired Parent-Teacher Organizations, served on advisory boards and committees, raised funding for schools and helped raise awareness on educational issues. As an active member of the Kiwanis of Lakewood Ranch, she works the organization’s advisor to its student leadership clubs — Key Club, Builders Club and K Kids.
Last summer, she served on a district-wide department review committee in which she helped create a clearer organizational structure and plan for each department in the district.
For Aranibar, key issues heading into elections are closing achievement gaps within the school district and making sure students are ready for college when they graduate.
“We cannot continue to spend the amount that we spend and still have the percentage of students (not graduating or) achieving their goals. They have to be college-ready.”
Accomplishing that goal will be difficult, but it starts with prioritizing instructional spending for classrooms and teachers, Aranibar said.
“We need to do some real evaluations on programs that work and expanding them and evaluating programs that don’t work,” she said. “If they aren’t working, we need to know why and be willing to make those changes.”
Candidate Albert “Al” Yusko may not have much experience in Manatee’s educational system, but the 65-year-old said he’s confident his background in business and ministry will bring a fresh outlook to the school board.
“I have a real heart and compassion for community,” Yusko said. “It’s a very important statement. That’s the main reason I’m running. I’ve been reading for years about the schools, the school board, violence in schools, teen pregnancy and the dropout rate.”
Yusko said his top priorities heading into the elections are finding ways to lower taxes and to trim the existing school board budget.
“There are too many positions getting too much money,” Yusko said, adding some full-time positions likely could become part-time. “We can cut a lot and still maintain a quality education.”
He also hopes to lower operating costs for schools, increase scholastic achievement and provide greater safety for students and faculty.
Yusko said he’s attended only one school board meeting up until this point but plans to go more regularly now that he’s running for office and trying to learn about the issues.
Yusko pointed to his background teaching seminary, Bible schools and missions organizations for more than 20 years as one of the reasons he chose to run for the school board rather than for another public office.
“This (seat) is open,” Yusko said. “I’ve been looking for something I can grab hold of and sink my teeth in to.”
Before Yusko began full-time ministry, he started and operated Born Again Hair Products, a company that manufactured natural skin- and hair-care products, and sold them internationally for 10 years. Prior to that, he owned a beauty salon and two retail women’s stores in California and manufactured women’s sportswear.
Yusko and his wife, Sallie, moved to Bradenton in 1995.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].