Click here for the PDF version 2018 FL amendments .
At yesterday’s Tri-County School Board meeting of the Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee County School Boards, I asked you why you would make a public accusation against Manatee Schools in your role as President of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members. I reminded our Board colleagues that not only did the Florida Department of Education find those allegations unfounded, but noted the practices employed with middle school students, in regards to the Civics EOC exam, was beneficial to the students. Honestly, all I was seeking was an apology from you, our neighboring county’s school board chairwoman, for an unfair accusation.
However, instead of a simple mea culpa, you instead chose to compound the false accusations by lying to everyone in the room – including our Board colleagues, Superintendents, staff and assembled media. Specifically, your defense of your actions in saying “Manatee County wasn’t named in the press release” is proven false by your own press release of Tuesday, June 26.
As you can see below, Manatee County was named in the subject line and body of the press release.
We, as board members, are role models for the students we serve. In leading those students, and our school districts, we must hold ourselves, and each other, to the highest ethical standards. Further, in our role as Board members, we should not only be held to account for our failures, but also rise to defend our employees and students from false accusations. For all of these reasons, I speak again to defend Manatee Schools.
School Board of Manatee County
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Describe how and when the School Board should conduct its search for Diana Greene’s permanent replacement as superintendent.
In order to attract the best candidates, we need to unite as a board and put past/current disagreements behind us. After the August elections, we will have a better idea of what the board will look like for the next two years. At that point, we should enlist the help of the Florida School Boards Association and a large community focus group in the search for the best candidates. By November, the new board will be seated and we can begin the process of vetting prospective candidates. Manatee Schools is in year six of our amazing recovery from nearly being taken over by the state. We need a new Superintendent with a strong background in Florida education finance and law who can successfully navigate the treacherous terrain of education in the hands of the current Florida legislature.
Did you vote in the 2018 referendum for the 1-mill, local-option property tax in Manatee County? If so, how did you vote and why?
Yes. I not only voted for it, but I was also one of the three Board votes that made it happen on March 20, 2018. I voted YES because we, as a community, should value our teachers and public education. With our neighboring counties having the same 1-mill in place, and using it to supplement teacher pay, it was necessary to remain competitive for teachers and staff in the midst of a statewide and national shortage.
Assess the school district’s efforts to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. See above
Cite three priorities you would have as a board member.
(not including Supt search) Continued financial stability, improving credit ratings and fund balance reserves. Improving Board unity and the school district’s public image. Ensuring oversight and proper use of 1 mill referendum funds for a 2022 re-approval.
Describe your approach to judging whether the district should approve charter-school applications.
Very simple. For-profit charter schools, that serve their shareholders before students, have no place in public education.
Do you support or oppose the use of public dollars and/or tax credits to fund tuition at private schools. Oppose, adamantly.
Evaluate the school district’s budget and budgeting process.
As demonstrated by the past six years of recovery, rising reserves and improving audits (internal, external and the state of FL), I have complete confidence in our district’s budgeting and finance departments, including CFO Heather Jenkins and her team.
What, if anything, should the district do to assist pupils who score a 1, 2 or 3 on the third-grade English Language Arts FSA test?
The best thing we can do for struggling early learners is to deploy wrap-around services into their neighborhood schools. Many students lack of academic achievement can be traced back to issues of their home/neighborhood – poverty, addiction, abuse, lack of health care, etc. Our best intervention would be in the 0-5 years for child development, partnering in any way we can, with the agencies and non-profits that serve kids that age.
Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the district’s provision of music and art courses and opportunities to students? I
’m mostly satisfied. Manatee Schools have multiple outlets for artistic expression and exploration. Unfortunately, due to the high-stakes testing regime inflicted upon us by the Florida legislature, arts education is the first thing to go in the pursuit of better school grades. If it’s not a tested subject in the school grade formula, it isn’t important. And that is a shame on the Florida legislature.
In your view, what should be the purview of the Citizens Financial Advisory Committee?
It should be what was promised to the voters. A citizens committee to oversee the disbursement of 1 mill referendum funds. However, since I made the motion in June to return the scope of the committee’s work to its original intention, the gadflies are buzzing about cover-ups. There’s a very simple solution in the middle. Specific budget/finance oversight requests brought to the school board by a majority vote of the CFAC, and approved by a majority vote of the School Board, will be honored. The CFAC will have the power to delve into those requests. I presented this idea at last week’s meeting of the CFAC.
What communications/training would you suggest for building a customer-service orientated culture among school district teachers and staff?
What suggestions would you make to the Board for approval, and of the community for buy-in, to ensure that the school district is an A by 2020?
What is your background (family, job, hobbies)? I grew up in Pittsburgh, but first moved to Bradenton in 2004 when I started teaching at Manatee High School. I have also been a teacher at YouthBuild Charter School in Washington, DC and the Pendleton School at IMG Academies. When elected in 2014, I was a teacher of 11th and 12th grade History and Government at Manatee High School. I have a B.S. degree in Political Science and a Masters degree in Education.
What are the school district issues you feel are most important? In the short term, the search for a new Superintendent and resolving the dissension that has dominated the board this year. In the long term, stability and oversight of school finances (referendum funds for our employees and half-cent sales tax for buildings), continuing to move Manatee Schools toward being an A-rated school district, attraction and retention of quality employees in a statewide and nationwide teacher shortage and improving health outcomes for our employees and students..
What would be your priority to increase school security? Continued partnerships with local governments in Manatee County, in addition to advocating with the Legislature to left the burden of their underfunded mandate which left us with only one choice we can afford – school guardians.
What qualities would you seek in a new school superintendent? First and foremost, we need a person with deep knowledge of Florida school law and finance. With the constantly evolving and increasing demands placed on public education by the FL legislature, while at the same they funnel public dollars to unaccountable private and for-profit charters, our new Superintendent must have years of experience in Florida schools.
What do you hope to accomplish if elected/re-elected? Bring unity back to the Board which has been fractured this year. Continue to advocate for our employee health clinic, and school based student health clinics, with a partnership of local physicians and medical professionals. I will also continue to advocate, as I have done during my first term, that we reduce the amount of district-based testing, study moving school start times to benefit adolescent health and education outcomes, study the possibility of full-year school (as a choice, not mandatory) and, finally, to expand and promote our career and technical education opportunities for students and post-grads.
Why are you the best candidate? I have tried to be a consensus builder and problem solver during my time on the Board. I have been available and responsive to anyone who has reached out to me, across any medium. After four years on the Board, I have knowledge, through personal experience, of the challenges we are facing going forward and have overcome in the past. I believe I have the experience, in the classroom and now Board room, the right temperament, and a track record of being part of a team that has seen our school district begin to recover from financial dark days.
Thanks to Dennis Maley for providing his readers with coverage of my campaign and the School Board races this summer. (Click here to read the article)