Veteran of Leon County Schools vies for seat on board

Ricky Bell is a veteran coach and administrator in Leon County Schools.
Photo Courtesy of Ricky Bell.

Richard Bell, born and raised in Tallahassee, is running for the Leon County Schools’ District 1 seat. Bell was the first to enter the race.

“I knew what I wanted to do and I wanted to get ahead of the other opponents so I went down and filed as soon as it was available,” said Bell.

Bell is far from a stranger to Tallahassee. The native has worked at every Leon County school except Chiles High School and has attended all three of Tallahassee’s colleges: TCC,, FSU and FAMU.

“He is a product of Leon County Schools for elementary, middle and high school,” said his wife, Shelly Bell. “Our children are in the school district as well so he is truly committed to Leon County Schools.”

Bell has been in public education for 41 years, a teacher for 22, and was a school administrator for three years. Currently he is the director of Interdivisional Support Services for Leon County Schools.

“He looks at things as a parent would, as a coach would, as an educator, and an administrator,” said Shelly Bell.

Tim Helms has a long history with the Bell. They attended Rickards High School together where they were both football players. After high school graduation, the two remained classmates since both majored in English at Florida State.

“Ricky Bell knows Leon County Schools like the back of his hand,” said Helms. “He knows where the light switches are in all the buildings.”

Bell was also a football coach, earning multiple awards including the Tallahassee Democrat Big Bend Football Coach of the Year in 1995, Florida Athletic Coaches Association Assistant Football Coach of the Year in 1992, and the Gadsden County Times Football Coach of the Year in 1983. He was also inducted into the James S. Rickards Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.

One of his platform points is school safety. Florida schools have gotten heat because of the Parkland shooting that took place in February.

“When kids come to school they need to know that they can be comfortable,” said Bell. “When parents bring their kids to school, they need to know that their kids are in good hands.”

He also believes that there should be more extracurricular activity opportunities for students. He realizes that some students fall through the cracks because there are no opportunities that cater to their interests.

“I’ve seen how kids feel a part of the school when they are a part of a club or a team. Their attendance, behavior, and grades improve,” said Bell. “It provides a better atmosphere for the school.”

He also believes that students should have personalized career pathways. While Bell is college educated, he understands that college is not for everyone and promotes students learning trades.

“There are all kinds of jobs out there that pay good salaries,” said Bell. “Everybody needs a job or a place that helps them provide for their family.”

Bell believes that the most important thing that the district should focus on is the two failing schools on the south side of the city, Oak Ridge and Pineview. If those schools do not improve, then the district will lose them to a charter company. Bell believes that he will be able to better attack these issues because of his connections in each community.

Bell is one of two candidates for the school board seat in District 1. He will be up against incumbent Alva Striplin, who is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend and the chair for the Leon County School Board.

Early voting ends Nov. 4 and election day is Nov. 6.