Two FAMU grads battle for one school board seat

(Left) "Incumbent Maggie Lewis-Butler." (Right)  "Community leader Darryl Jones."
Photos submitted by Jones and Butler. 

Two Rattlers are going head-to-head for the Leon County School Board District 3 seat.

Voters will decide between veteran school board member Maggie Lewis-Butler and challenger Darryl Jones come November.

Jones, a community organizer and a deputy director at the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, is seeking to unseat the longest-serving member of the Leon County School Board.

Lewis-Butler, the board’s vice chair this year, was first elected in 1996. 

Jones, has been a member of the Tallahassee community for 30 years. He graduated from Florida A&M University with a degree in English and it was there that he found a love for politics.

“During my time at FAMU, I was a member of the Student Government Association and I was able to be a student staff assistant under the administration of President Humphries,” Jones said.

“That shaped me as a leader, professional, public servant and man,” he added.

After graduating, he dedicated his career to helping others — becoming a pillar in the community.

“I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career in economic development to include, entrepreneurship, affordable housing and supply and diversity,” said Jones.

He currently serves as chair of the Leon County Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Committee, and has been on other committees including the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Foundation, FAMU Way, Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce and more.

“Having been a volunteer at so many youth programs around the city I was very much aware of the achievement gap in District 3 schools,” said Jones. “I believe that my business acumen as well as my work in economic development is a perspective missing from our school board.”

Jones has been interested in running for school board District 3 for some time.

There are Title 1 schools that have earned an 'A” grade all over Florida,” said Jones. “I’m running because there are no A schools in our community and I know our children deserve better.”

Jones believes success begins with prioritizing school safety and the achievement gap.

“First, I want to improve the quality of early learning and then provide it to the children and south side communities so that they’re best prepared to enter the public schools of District 3,” said Jones. “Two, ensure equitable distribution of resources to the schools of District 3.”

He added that his business connections and perspective can help to engage the business community to invest in our schools and our children.

“Three, ensure and create more community and business partnerships for the schools in District 3,” said Jones. “Last, continue to prioritize school safety for the schools found in District 3.”

Jones believes his business perspective is what District 3 needs to be present in the school board because “someone has to hold the entire school system accountable and the way it spends resources on black, brown and poor children.”

Jones looks forward to being the voice for change for children, parents and teachers in  District 3.

He said Butler has done a great job on the School Board, but it's time for a new voice and a fellow Rattler to step in.

“Maggie has been a well-intended public servant and has sacrificed greatly these last 22 years of service to our community,” said Jones. “I think that now is the right time for another Rattler neighbor to serve the schools that sit in the shadows of our beloved alma mater.”

But she isn’t ready to give up her seat.

Lewis-Butler has held a seat on the school board representing District 3 for 21 years.

Lewi-Butler graduated from FAMU with a degree in biology and then a master’s in science education. Lewis-Butler said that earning degrees in a STEM discipline has always been very important to her.

“I received an excellent education at FAMU,” Lewis-Butler said. “My time allowed me to meet different people from different places, learn from others and plan for the future.”

After graduating, Lewis-Butler taught biology. As a teacher, she instilled how to be “fully prepared to be successful,” in her students.

“I helped students get a good educational foundation,” she said. “It was important that I focused on life learning when educating my students.”

While Lewis-Butler is excited to see FAMU alumni engaged in politics, she is not weary of competition.

“My focus is still the same – being re-elected so I can continue to serve students in District 3,” said Lewis-Butler. “I want to ensure that they receive a quality education in a safe environment.”

If re-elected Butler has great things in store for District 3 and the FAMU community.

“My priorities for District 3 for the coming year is to get all our schools to an excellent rating. To ensure all students in District 3 continue receiving a quality education in a safe environment,” she said.

Butler said that funds are being allocated to ensure the success of students and an increase in school grades.

“Two million dollars in funding is being allocated to Bond Elementary, Oak Ridge Elementary and Pine View Elementary for additional staffing (e.g., reading, math & science coaches) and instructional material.”

Annie Harris, former assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Leon County Schools said Lewis-Butler is dedicated and seeks to ensure monies are spent wisely.

“Maggie Lewis-Butler is dedicated to making sure that funds are available for the Schools and her dedication to making sure that all learning goals are being met.”

Lewis-Butler believes her experience as a board member has granted her the opportunity of learning what students need to be successful.

“As a former teacher, I’m aware of the variety of challenges teachers face to provide quality education to students and I know our teachers work very hard to provide a quality education to all students,” she said. “I know the importance of having engaged parents and an engaged community.”

Butler always wants to make sure the needs of the students in District 3 are being met.

While both candidates are eager and hungry for the seat, only one Rattler will prevail in November. Jones is ready to serve the community and Lewis-Butler looks forward to another four successful years.

Jones said, “My community needs me and I am ready to serve the students, families and teachers in my community.”

Jones’ drive and tenacity is matched with Lewis-Butler’s determination and strong willpower.

“I still have more work to do,” said Lewis-Butler. “I am ready.”