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How Gainesville school board candidates hope to make a difference
Gainesville School Board Office

Seeing children fail doesn’t discourage Willie Mitchell and Chad Payne, the two candidates vying for the District 3 Gainesville City Schools Board of Education seat. It inspires them to work harder. 

Cha
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Chad Payne
d Payne

Age: 42

Occupation: agent with Farmers Insurance 

Political experience: None

Willie Mi
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Willie Mitchell
tchell

Age: 70

Occupation: retired, does part-time maintenance for Sisu Integrated Early Learning 

Political experience: Has served on the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education since 1989.


“When I first came onto the board, the thought I had any time a child failed in school was that somehow we as a board or school system failed,” Mitchell said. “Decades ago I looked for ways to eliminate that failure. And this term all the resources are in place to eliminate a majority of that.”

The candidates will be on the ballot for all city of Gainesville residents on Nov. 5. Early voting starts Oct. 14.

Mitchell has served on the Board of Education since 1989 and said he feels his decades of service have equipped him to do what he has always wanted to do.

“I’m talking about not a plan to give them a fish, but a plan to teach them how to fish, to be self-sufficient,” he said. 

Through elements like pushing workforce development in schools and the upcoming opening of The Hub, a one-stop center for student and family resources, Mitchell said the board has helped put the right tools in place to help students succeed, no matter their socioeconomic background.

“I just want to thank the people that have put me in this position for all these years and asked me to complete this part of the plan,” he said. “No matter what happens in November, I’m still going to be working toward that because it’s who I am and who I have become.”

Although Payne is new to the political arena, he isn’t new to Gainesville City Schools and its students. 

Born and raised in Gainesville, Payne has five kids; the oldest graduated from Gainesville High School, three are enrolled in the district and the other is lined up to go to Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy next year. 

Over the past two years he has served on Enota’s Governance Council, and he has volunteered as a youth basketball and football coach for five years. 

As a youth coach, Payne spends time with kids 7 to 12 years old. 

“I’m in the community where I see all my football and basketball players who are not all in the same situations household wise,” Payne said. “I get to mentor them on a coaching level and a personal level. Just knowing these kids and getting to see their interactions, it really just laid a burden on my heart to look out for these guys.”

Although he has his fair share of success stories with the kids he coaches, Payne said there’s one he’ll never forget. The child fell behind in his academics, and because of this, he wasn’t able to play in the upcoming year. 

“I let him slip through the cracks,” Payne said. “If we care enough to make sure that young man plays basketball or football for us, we need to make sure he’s getting his education and doing everything right with turning in assignments.”

Through his experience coaching youth football and basketball, Payne recognizes the importance of mentors.

Although mentor programs are in place for some students in the school system, Payne said he sees a need for stronger access to mentors. 

“I would like to see more mentors at every level of the school system,” he said. “I want more involvement with people like myself, including business owners. I want to make sure the youth have a way to see that there are other things out there that they can be doing in life.”

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