Four of the seven seats on the nonpartisan Polk County School Board are being contested in the Aug. 23 primary election. Each seat represents a separate geographic area, but School Board members are elected countywide. Three of the races involve an incumbent and at least one challenger supported by ultra-conservative organizations. A fourth race will determine a replacement for Lynn Wilson, who is not seeking re-election after eight years on the board. School Board members set policy for a massive school district that encompasses 110,000 students and 13,000 employees.

District 3

Sarah Fortney (incumbent)

  • Bartow, age 61
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Experience. Relationships. Relevance.
  • Endorsements: Business Voice (Lakeland Chamber of Commerce), Polk County Builders Association, Polk County Voters’ League, Democratic Party of Polk County, Polk County Democratic Black Caucus

Rick Nolte

  • Mulberry, age 66
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Rick will work to unite students, teachers, parents and all faculty to insure everyone is heard and the students are receiving the best education to lead them into bright tomorrows.
  • Endorsements: Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican Party of Polk County, Winter Haven 9-12 Project

News links

  • Rick Nolte challenges Sarah Fortney’s bid for 2nd term – The Ledger, July 29
  • Polk School Board District 3: Veteran educator Rick Nolte and incumbent Sarah Fortney – LkldNow, Aug. 4
  • Gov. DeSantis endorses Polk School Board candidate Rick Nolte – LkldNow, Aug. 10

District 5

Terry L. Clark

  • Lakeland, age 72
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Educate, not indoctrinate.
  • Endorsements: Lakeland Association of Realtors, Republican Party of Polk County, Winter Haven 9-12 Project

Kay Fields (incumbent)

  • Lakeland, age 70
  • Facebook | Twitter
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: A strong voice for children.
  • Endorsements: Sheriff Grady Judd, Business Voice (Lakeland Chamber of Commerce), Polk County Builders Association, Polk County Voters’ League, Polk County Democratic Black Caucus

News links

  • Pastor Terry Clark aims to deny Kay Fields a 6th term — The Ledger, Aug. 1
  • Polk School Board District 5: Incumbent Kay Fields vs. Terry Clark — LkldNow, Aug. 3

District 6

Sara Estelle Jones

  • Lake Wales, age 33
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Advocating for sound solutions.
  • Endorsements: Polk County Voters’ League, West Central Florida Labor Council, Democratic Party of Polk County, Polk County Democratic Black Caucus

Justin Sharpless

  • Lake Wales, age 38
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Sharpie for Students
  • Endorsements: Sheriff Grady Judd, Business Voice (Lakeland Chamber of Commerce), Republican Party of Polk County, Polk County Builders Association, Lakeland Association of Realtors, East Polk Association of Realtors, Fort Meade Mayor Bob Elliott, Winter Haven 9-12 Project

News links

  • Candidate Jones under Florida Bar inquiry over events she claims were caused by communication errors – The Ledger, June 28
  • Newcomers Sara Jones and Justin Sharpless vie for open seat – The Ledger, Aug. 2
  • Newcomers Jones and Sharpless Vie For School Board District 6 Seat – LkldNow, Aug. 8

District 7

Lisa Miller (incumbent)

  • Lakeland, age 46
  • Website
  • Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Our children. Our future.
  • Endorsements: Business Voice (Lakeland Chamber), East Polk Association of Realtors, Lakeland Association of Realtors, Polk County Builders Association

Dell Quary

  • Lakeland, age 67
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: A Quality Education For A.L.L.
  • Endorsements: Polk County Voters’ League, Democratic Party of Polk County, Polk County Democratic Black Caucus

Jill Sessions

  • Lakeland, age 57
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: School is in Session
  • Endorsements: Republican Party of Polk County, Winter Haven 9-12 Project, The 1776 Project PAC

News links

  • Texts falsely claim School Board member is under criminal inquiry – The Ledger, July 1
  • Lisa Miller faces two challengers in her bid for a second term – The Ledger, Aug. 3
  • School Board District 7: Miller, Quary and Sessions – LkldNow, Aug. 9

News and video links – multiple seats

  • School Board races are supposed to be nonpartisan, but both parties are endorsing – The Ledger, July 1
  • Video: County Citizens Defending Freedom candidate forum, July 16
  • Two companies run by School Board campaign manager found in breach of contract – The Ledger, July 27 (subscribers only)
  • Video: School Board candidates air views at Kiwanis forum – LkldNow, Aug. 5
  • School Board candidates highlight experience vs. change – LkldNow, Aug. 12
  • Stranger things surround this year’s Polk School Board races – LkldNow, Aug. 15

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Barry Friedman

Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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