Gainesville native and resident Brett Mercer has qualified for the Ward 1 position of the Gainesville City Board of Education, effectively replacing former member David Syfan, who has chosen not to run this year.
Mercer, 45, works in real estate with The Simpson Co. He is uncontested for the Ward 1 seat.
“I think (the school board has) made a good plan and a good course,” Mercer said. “Sticking with that course, for the most part, will be a benefit.”
He said finding and working with a new superintendent to replace Merrianne Dyer when she retires at the end of the school year is the most pressing priority.
“And hopefully finding some new ways and avenues of reaching students,” Mercer added. “I believe they learn differently than when I learned. They do everything with technology. They’re so used to having data completely available.”
He listed many of the athletic and academic programs available through the school system, especially at the high school level.
“Between the academics and athletics and what Pam Ware’s done with the fine arts, Gainesville’s got everything that you could ever want,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to go someplace different.”
Mercer will take the seat from Syfan, who has served on the board for 12 years.
“My son is the only child I have left in the system, and he graduates in the spring of 2014,” Syfan explained. He said most people feel, and he agrees, that school board members should have children in the school system.
Looking back over his time on the board, Syfan said he was most proud of decreasing the achievement gap between white students and minorities. He also said the system has had four new schools built during that time.
“They were all needed, and they all came in (on) budget,” Syfan said. “Most of them under budget. So we’ve been able to maintain great facilities for our kids to learn in.”
Board co-chairwoman Delores Diaz requalified for her Ward 4 position, and also faces no opposition.
She is going into her second term. She said she brings the perspective of an educator.
“I think the biggest accomplishment of the board and a system as a whole is coming out of deficit, and putting ourselves through very conservative management of our finances and resources,” Diaz said of the past few years. “Putting ourselves in a better position than we were when I came on board.”
She said there are many new programs being implemented in the schools, and she would like to see that continue.
The end of Syfan’s term is Dec. 31, 2013, which will also be the end of Diaz’s first term.