MANATEE -- A third candidate entered the race Thursday for the Manatee County School Board District 5 seat now held by Julie Aranibar.
Mary Cantrell, outgoing director of Manatee Technical Institute, has filed to run for election to the Manatee County School Board, according to the county elections office.
"I'd like to see more focus on students and student achievement," Cantrell said Thursday.
Cantrell is challenging incumbent board member and chairwoman Aranibar along with Carlton "Les" Nichols.
Cantrell, 70, retired in 2004, but returned to the helm of MTI under the Deferred Retirement Option Program. MTI opened the Caruso Road campus Jan. 7, 2013, the 50th anniversary of the school.
Cantrell's contract as MTI director was not renewed for the 2014-15 academic year. Cantrell said her nonrenewal helped her decide to file for the school board election.
Cantrell, who has been at MTI for 18 years, led the campus move from Bradenton to East Manatee off Caruso Road. In April, she learned her contract would not be renewed.
"Whatever happens to me, that's the best thing to have happened to me," Cantrell said. "That's the way I live my life."
In addition to increasing focus on student achievement, Cantrell said she'd work to create a more wel
coming environment for teachers and staff, if elected.
"If morale is low, an unhappy teacher is not as effective as a happy teacher," Cantrell said.
Running a school district requires financial and legal decisions, Cantrell said, but those decisions should be made with students in mind.
"Everything is a balancing act," Cantrell said. "Don't make cuts where they affect students."
Nichols, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, has lived in Florida 15 years. He has been working as a property manager with Argus Property Management in Sarasota for the past year and a half. Nichols filed for the school board seat last August, he said, and was surprised a candidate was filing this close to the qualifying period.
"If someone really wanted to run, they would have filed a while back," he said.
Nichols said he hasn't met Cantrell yet, but is looking forward to the race panning out.
Aranibar, who has filed for re-election, said she wasn't surprised to see a candidate filing now.
"I've been a longtime supporter of MTI," she said.
Two other school board seats are also up for election. All Manatee County voters are allowed to cast ballots in each of the school board races. The election is nonpartisan.
The District 4 seat, now held by Karen Carpenter, is up for election. The district covers Manatee County south of Bradenton. No challenger has filed yet.
The District 2 seat, held by Barbara Harvey for 16 years, is up for grabs this year. The district covers most of the urban core of Bradenton and Palmetto.
Harvey, a Palmetto resident and retired school principal, has yet to decide if she will run for re-election, she said previously. She has not yet filed any paperwork, according to the county elections office.
If she runs, she will face Rodney Jones and Charlie Kennedy.
The qualifying period for the school board election is June 16-20. The primary election is Aug. 26, and a runoff, if needed, would be Nov. 4.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.