WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a matter of days, voters will head to the polls to elect more than a dozen school board members across our viewing area.
School board races are non-partisan, meaning candidates do not run with a political party. But that isn't stopping the races from becoming more politicized than ever before.
School board members have become much more well-known over the past few years as parents flooded meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, often criticizing the board's decisions.
One of the most vocal critics in Palm Beach County is Angelique Contreras, who is now running for the District 4 school board seat, covering parts of Lake Worth Beach, Boynton Beach, and West Palm Beach.
"I know that there are always major headlines about me, but I'm just an average American that really just wants the best for my children and your children as well," Contreras told WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind on Wednesday.
WATCH: Palm Beach County School Board candidate Angelique Contreras speaks to WPTV
Contreras' opponent is incumbent Erica Whitfield, who's running for her third term.
"There is nothing more important to me than quality schools. And I feel I've done a good job these last eight years representing the community. And I would much like to continue that work," Whitfield said.
WATCH: Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield speaks to WPTV
Across the state, politics are playing a greater role in school board races than ever before, with Gov. Ron DeSantis even endorsing some candidates.
Contreras — who home-schools her children — appeared with DeSantis on April 22 when he signed into law what supporters call the "Stop WOKE Act," which bans the teaching of critical race theory in Florida schools.
"Are you hoping to get his endorsement?" Susskind asked Contreras on Wednesday.
"I'm really hoping to get the endorsement of the voters in Palm Beach County," Contreras answered. "That's the biggest thing and that's our goal to be able to get the support of the people in District 4."
WPTV political analyst Brian Crowley told anchor Michael Williams on "To The Point" that this is the most partisan election cycle he's ever seen for races that are not supposed to be tied to political parties.
"I think it says that a lot of folks who are excited on individual issues don't really understand what it means to be on the school board," Crowley said.
"How do you cut through the culture wars that are happening and focus on the education of children?" Susskind asked Wednesday.
"I feel like the idea in this time that we are in, the best thing that we can do is to be stable and transparent. And that's something I feel I've proven to do," Whitfield answered.
"For the past couple of years we've seen an academic decline. We've seen a mental health decline of our students. And we focus so much on the social issues that we really lost sight of what our responsibilities are as board members. And we've got to get back to the basics," Contreras said.
Both candidates agree the top priority is school safety. They also both support parental rights, but have different view about it.
"For the past two years, parents have been pushed out. Parents have called their board members, their administration, their principals, for advice. And unfortunately, they've been shut out," Contreras said.
"I don't think that the outcry that you are hearing in the community that they don't have rights in schools, at least, is not true here in Palm Beach County," Whitfield said. "You've always had a right to be a part of your school and talk to your teacher and understand what's happening."
"What do you think you can bring to the table that may be different from what the voters have seen before?" Susskind asked.
"Currently we have a board of seven democrats in Palm Beach County. And unfortunately, there is not a diversity of opinion," Contreras answered. "So I want to be able to bring a different opinion, a different view on that board, so that not everything that is passed in Palm Beach County is 7 to 0."
"What do you think sets you apart from your opponent?" Susskind asked.
"I have a lot of experience," Whitfield answered. "I've lived in this community for 20 years. My children go to our schools, and I am extremely committed to them and love them. I am a huge advocate for our teachers, for our staff."
This race just one example of the changing nature of public education.
There are four Palm Beach County School Board races on the Aug. 23 ballot. All but one race includes the incumbent.