McNealy, Sharpe square off in runoff next month

Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.

Two candidates are vying for the District 4 seat on the Alachua County School Board. Former principal Leanetta McNealy and incumbent Barbara Sharpe will face off on Nov. 6 in a runoff in the nonpartisan race.


Candidate Information

Leanetta McNealy

Age: 63

Profession: Retired Alachua County educator

Family: One son and one daughter

Political experience: None

Residence: Gainesville

Barbara Sharpe

Age: 72

Profession: Retired student loan officer at the University of Florida

Family: Husband Cleve, one son and three daughters

Political experience: Served on the Alachua County School Board from 1992 to 2004 and returned in 2008

Residence: Gainesville

First-time candidate McNealy said if she were elected, among her priorities are equity across all district schools and increasing graduation rates.

McNealy, who was principal of Duval Elementary School from 1995 to 2009, said she wants to see infrastructure at all schools be equal. She said all schools should have up-to-date public address systems, playgrounds and computer labs, among other things.

She said she worked to improve Duval's physical campus while she was principal but said other schools had more with which to work.

“I have worked at a school that did not have everything that my colleagues had,” she said.

She said she understands that schools will have different resources but would like to address why there isn't more equity if she is elected.

“Those are the questions I would have if I'm on the School Board,” she said.

McNealy said the School Board can work to improve graduation rates by emphasizing the requirements necessary to get a high school diploma as the child moves through the system — from kindergarten up.

“We have to make sure that parents are very much aware of the requirements,” she said.

She said she wants to expand magnet programs, particularly in high schools.

“I'd like to see more in technology and the sciences,” she said. “I think it would be certainly an advantage for the students, as well as the community.”

McNealy has raised more than twice as much money as Sharpe, according to the most recent campaign finance report, with about $27,000 in contributions.

She attributes her support to her push to reach new voters, adding that she emphasizes her years as a principal as experience that has prepared her for the School Board.

Running for a fourth term, Sharpe said she wants to look into expanding magnet programs in elementary and middle schools as well as finding ways to increase graduation rates.

She served on the board from 1992 to 2004 and successfully ran again in 2008. If elected again, she said the community can expect more of the same from her.

“I am a School Board member right now,” she said. “What I am going to do is not going to be very different from what I have been doing.”

She said she wants to work with the superintendent and board to explore creating more magnet programs in middle and elementary schools to serve students with specific interests.

Sharpe said she would consider where there might be needs without spending too much.

“I would work with the superintendent to look at some things that might be feasible for us,” she said.

Sharpe also emphasized the importance of vocational training, saying not everyone wants to go to college and that the district need to maintain good programs for those students.

With a budget that faces decreased state funding each year, Sharpe said local businesses can help schools weather the tough economy.

“We can still ask for help from our business partners,” she said.

Sharpe garnered fewer votes than McNealy in the August election, when Sharpe received 10,864, or 33.7 percent, and McNealy received 12,493, or 38.76 percent.

Sharpe has raised about $10,000, according to her most recent campaign finance report. She said money does not concern her, as she has won previous elections despite spending less than her opponents.

Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or

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