When asked whether a steady hand or a fresh face should represent District 2 for the St. Johns County School Board, voters opted for the steady hand.
Incumbent Tommy Allen clinched the victory with just less than 52 percent (2,809 votes), while newcomer John Reardon came in a little above 48 percent (2,598 votes).
Despite Allen’s 28-year presence in the school district, he said he was both nervous and pleasantly surprised by the results.
“I’ve always been very careful to anticipate anything when it comes to winning or losing,” Allen said.
Consistency was a key talking point in Allen’s campaign, an element he stressed as critical with current Superintendent Joe Joyner scheduled to depart the district in the coming months. And paired with an ever-expanding student population are budget shortcomings, which Allen believes are challenges best handled by experienced board members familiar with the school district’s growth and financial burdens.
“We’ve got a good thing going. My football coach in college used to say, ‘If I could gain four yards every play, I would run that play every time,’” Allen said. “We’ve been doing well. We’re on the right track.”
Allen sells a message of old-fashioned values, managing growth while maintaining quality education and character. His future goals include returning First Coast Technical College to its former enrollment numbers and past training standards. He hopes to expand the blended Pre-K model from one school to three additional schools as well as push for an active presence from the local delegation of state officials to provide for high-growth funding.
One program Allen is especially eager to implement in its entirety next year is the “Cradle to Career” program, a 25-year agreement with three other agencies to provide tutoring, health services, mentorship and leadership activities and an abundance of other on-site resources for families.
“It’ll be helpful for parents and very young children to help them get ready so when every child reaches Pre-K, they’re ready to learn,” Allen said.
Reardon ran a campaign calling for new blood, saying District 2 needed more representation and focus, especially for its underperforming schools which have some of the lowest grades in the county. As a 26-year resident of St. Augustine as well as a former county and city commissioner, he said his goal was to bring fresh perspective to the board.
Following the tight race, Allen said he plans on seeing out the next four years the same as he has for almost three decades already.
“I just really appreciate the ability to keep serving,” Allen said. “It’s been a chore, but it’s also been a lot of fun.”