Thu, Jul 25, 2024
Youngest person in Florida history runs for Clay County School Board

Youngest person in Florida history runs for Clay County School Board

  • PublishedJune 10, 2024

A local teenager and recent high school graduate is now looking to become the youngest member of any school board in Florida history.

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Matthew Mitchell graduated from Clay High School in 2022 and now he wants to trade in his desk for one of the open seats for the Clay County School District school board.

“I think the Clay County leadership understands that we need a fresh perspective on the school board. And we need someone who not only has a fresh perspective, but also has just went through the system, and as well as work through the system,” Mitchell said.

Since graduating high school, Mitchell has spent the past two years graduating early from UNF, working on Governor DeSantis’ campaign and working with the Florida Department of Education – helping craft the budget and policies for schools across the state.

“I’ve learned so much that you know, through both my high school time and my work time that I’m ready to come back and bring what I’ve learned with the idea of there’s so much more to learn,” he said.

After announcing his campaign last week, Mitchell believes the board needs someone who’s just gone through the public education system.

“Everyone else on that board is, you know, a little older or has kids or is a parent or is a former teacher, and we haven’t seen a board member that just came out of the process and has a graduate degree and has worked in policy for education,” said Mitchell.

If elected, he wants to shift his focus to the people working inside the classroom, introducing regular teacher town halls.

“I don’t think that teachers feel like they’re being heard, so allowing them to have a seat at that table and put their input in and I will be ready to answer the call anytime of the day to any teacher and not only teachers, I’m going to go to admin staff,” Mitchell said.

The 19-year-old is up against Robert Alvero and James Hughes for the Clay County School Board District Two seat. Robert Alvero, a Cuban migrant who works for JFRD and James Hughes, who’s taught in Clay county schools all throughout his 36 year long teaching career.

The district has been under the microscope recently, with the district having more book bans than any county within the state, though most challenges were from one person. Considering how Florida is leading the nation as the state with the most books banned at schools, First Coast News asked Mitchell how the bans impacted his experience as a student, and goals if elected on the school board.

“I think we can all sit here and say that any inappropriate material should not be in our classrooms or our schools for our kids to be reading. And so I just believe that the issue is, you know, coming to a resolution, and there’s always a step to take to get us farther, farther positive to that issue. I also think that there’s more important issues at the table that, you know, are being put on the sidelines because of the book ban issue,” explained Mitchell.

The Clay County School District also was under investigation by the United States Department of Justice last year, finding the district failed to provide proper language instruction for students and their parents. This forced the district to revise its policies and services to non-English speaking students. 

“Clay County schools does have a large population and in that and ESL learning. And so I think we need to take a step back and look at what we’re doing currently. And then take a focus on how we can improve, the district is now putting a focus more on that,” Mitchell added.

First Coast News will be covering this campaign ahead of the Aug. 20 primary election. The non-partisan race allows all Clay County registered voters to vote.

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