After spending decades as a teacher and administrator in Pasco County Schools, Steve Luikart was ready to enjoy retirement. That is, until a letter to the editor in an area newspaper caught the attention of his wife, Nancy, and his life would never be the same.
“The letter writer wanted to know when someone with the background and experience in the school system would run for the school board,” Luikart said. “My wife got me up at 5:30 that morning and made me read it. ‘Do you know what I’m saying?’ she asked me. I said, ‘Yes, I do.’”
Later that week, Luikart was in the supervisor of elections office, filing paperwork to run for school board, a seat he won in 2010 with 45 percent of the vote in a three-person race. Since then, Luikart has called himself a representative of the men and women who work in the school system, providing a voice he says they may not have otherwise.
“I know how the teachers feel, and how the custodians feel, and how the cafeteria and support staff feel,” he said. “I have worked with all those folks for so long, I can bring a different perspective when some of these things come up” on the board.
Luikart championed the opening of health clinics across the county that he said not only helps keep employees healthy, but saves the school district money in medical costs. Luikart also pushed for a program led by England’s University of Cambridge that provides accelerated methods of academic study, as well as an aeronautics program at Sunlake High School.
“One of my main goals, if I’m re-elected, is to look at our vocational technical programs and get more involved,” Luikart said. “I want to find out more what the students and the community need, because we need to be able to train our students who are not going on to college, and who are not getting higher paid jobs coming out of high school.”
The vo-tech programs have been something close to Luikart’s heart in his more than three decades as an educator. He was a second-generation graduate of Gulf High School in New Port Richey, and returned to the high school after college to become an educator.
Luikart’s first job was as a work experience coordinator and he focused on freshmen who were at high risk of eventually dropping out of school. He would work with them to make sure they had the necessary life skills to succeed on their own, including how to fill out job applications and to balance a checkbook.
“The expectation was that just about 8 (percent) to 10 percent would actually stay in school and graduate,” Luikart said. “I didn’t take what I did lightly, and my graduation rate was actually closer to 60 (percent) to 70 percent, and the state came in and adopted my curriculum elsewhere.”
Whenever Luikart travels around the country, he visits various vo-tech programs, looking for ideas. He realized in observing those programs, Pasco’s vocational technical programs are falling short.
“They are nowhere close to the levels they should be at,” he said. “We have to make sure that when these students graduate, they will get two steps in front of the average guy. We need to expand some of the programs that we’re offering.”
Luikart also wants to break out various career academies so that they are more centralized and accessible to students across the country, and not just specifically with a high school, like the culinary academy at Land O’ Lakes High School.
“If I’m at Sunlake, I have to drive over to Land O’ Lakes High School and try to enroll in it,” Luikart said. “If these academies were part of the Marchman Technical Education Center, it would become more economically viable from the district’s standpoint.”
Luikart says he wants his next four years to be like the last four on the board, and that starts with listening to everyone affected by the board’s decisions.
“I don’t rule with a heavy hand,” he said. “I rule with the people.”
Non-partisan candidate for Pasco County School Board, District 5
Retired administrator, Pasco County Schools
Pasco County School Board, 2010
Nancy Luikart, wife
Steve Luikart, son
Jamie Golubeff, daughter
Shawna Luikart, daughter
New Port Richey, lifelong
through July 25
Published August 6, 2014
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