School Board candidate Jessica Vaughn

Tampa Palms resident Jessica Vaughn has spent much of her time the past few years as a community organizer and helping other candidates with various campaigns and elections.

Now, she wants to expand her horizons and run her own campaign, with the hopes of replacing Cindy Stuart in the Hillsborough County School Board’s District 3 seat. A crowded Primary Election is scheduled for Tuesday, August 18.

Stuart, who has served on the Hillsborough School Board since 2012, is running for Clerk of Circuit Court, leaving open her School Board seat, which represents the northern suburbs of the county, including New Tampa, Carrollwood, Lutz and Thonotosassa.

Vaughn, a substitute teacher who was elected to the Tampa Palms CDD in 2016, is hoping to parlay her desire to improve education throughout the District into a position where she can make a difference.

“I’ve been involved in helping other people get elected,” Vaughn says, “but I am very passionate about education, and it was a good time to put my money where my mouth was.”

Vaughn, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from USF in 2010, says she feels that many School Board members aren’t serving based on a passion for education, but rather to launch a political career.

She thinks it’s important to have experience managing a budget, being in the classroom and being a parent. “Those are the types of people we really need on the School Board,” she says. “That’s why I thought I’d be a good fit.”
With campaigning in person limited by Covid-19, Vaughn has been active on social media and has aggressively campaigned where she can. Her lengthy platform includes everything from clean water and safe buildings to catching those students falling through the cracks.

School safety in the age of coronavirus, however, has become most important.

She was in favor of students wearing masks before the county decided to make them mandatory, and says rigorous cleaning of schools has to be the top priority. Teachers and students, she says, must be taken care of, and virtual and e-learning options should be readily available.

Vaughn says she’s a strong believer in public education, and isn’t opposed to charter schools in theory, praising Pepin Academies and Learning Gate Community School in Lutz, but says many other charter schools have siphoned money from public schools and aren’t being held to the same standards as public schools.

Vaughn feels strongly that statewide testing is overutilized and far from adequate in determining a student’s academic achievement, and that the School District’s budget — which has again seen its reserves disappear and has created a $50 million deficit — is not being used wisely.

She think more money needs to be spent on evening the playing field for students who are at a disadvantage due to things many take for granted, like access to nutrition, walking to school in dangerous neighborhoods or even just having a jacket to wear to school in cold weather.

“If we’re not honestly talking about access to resources, supporting these communities and what that looks like when we’re talking about achievement, we’re not being realistic about the conversation,” she says.

Vaughn is running against five other candidates. She has endorsements from Tampa District 7 City Council member Luis Viera, and Hillsborough County commissioners Mariella Smith (countywide District 5) and Pat Kemp (countywide District 6). She received the endorsement from the Tampa Bay Times as well.

“Overall, my experience makes me the best person for this job, and I’m the person most preparing myself for it,” Vaughn says. “I’m the one watching the Board meetings and posting on social media about what’s happening….I’m the only candidate talking about anything that’s happening educationally. If you need someone who is focusing on all of these important issues and will be ready to hit the ground running, I’m it.”

For more information, visit, or search for “Elect Jessica Vaughn” on Facebook.

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