Category Archives: Questionnaires

Manatee Chamber of Commerce Questionnaire

1.      What is the biggest opportunity that, if embraced by the district, would lead to an improvement in student achievement?  Since the start of my campaign, I have advocated that the district should allocate additional resources and talented people into the Pre-K and elementary grades.   Volumes of research have measured the benefits of early education.  Over the past two years, we have seen measured gains in test scores.  With more investment in early education, we’ll see those gains continue for the 5-10 years and beyond.  In addition to the benefits to our young people, there is economic benefit to the community as one study predicts $8 of economic growth for every $1 spent on early childhood eduction.
2.      What role should local businesses play in supporting our schools to ensure students are graduating with the skills necessary for successful employment?  Manatee County’s entrepreneurs and young professionals should continue their work in our schools through programs like Leadership Manatee and Big Bank Theory.  That direct connection between students and employers is vital for students to see a future for themselves as adults.  Another outlet for career readiness would be a collaboration between students and employers to connect students with real-world internships, work-study programs and mentorship opportunities in local businesses.  When a student can see and feel their future success, that is a powerful motivation to mature and bloom.
3.      What is your top priority for the district as a candidate for School Board and how should this priority be achieved?  My top priority is the protection of students.  We were fortunate to get additional funding from the state for this previous school year and our district has made a dramatic financial turnaround since Supt. Mills and his team took the helm.  However, in order to bring long-term stability to the district, more cuts will have to be made.  I want to make sure children are the last stakeholder to be affected by those cuts. 
4.      What is the greatest strength you would bring to the School Board if elected?  My 10 years of experience as an educator, including the last seven in Manatee County, will give the public trust that they have a teacher on the school board who knows what students and teachers need to succeed.  Further, I don’t bring an ideology or allegiance to any faction or special interest of our currently dysfunctional school board.  Therefore, the public will know that if elected to the school board, I will be an independent voice for students and taxpayers who can begin to rebuild the trust between the community, teachers and school leadership.

Herald Tribune Questionnaire

Birthplace: Warren, PA
Family: My fiancé, Lisa Ramirez, is active in the community working for Healthy Start Coalition and the Florida Department of Health in Manatee. My brother, Mike, resides in Bradenton with his wife and two children.
Education/degrees: B.A. – Political Science, Univ. of Pittsburgh ’94
M.A. – Social Studies Education, Duquesne University ’03
Civic Involvement: High School Teacher & Coach (2004-present)
Habitat for Humanity (volunteer 2008-09)
Big Brothers/Big Sisters (volunteer 2010)
Elected/appointed offices held: None, this is my first experience as a candidate.
Other Government services:
Key Issue 1: I decided to run for school board because I saw that it was lacking one crucial voice, that of a classroom teacher. Therefore, my first priority is students. The school district has made a dramatic financial turnaround in the past 18 months, however further cuts will have to be made. I want to make sure children are the last stakeholder to be affected by those cuts.
Key Issue 2: My second priority is teachers. As a high school teacher myself, I understand the challenges of the job and what is required to be successful. Our district’s teachers haven’t seen a pay increase in years; in fact the cost of benefits is rising for teachers and the district. Once the school budget is back on solid footing, with the required fund balance and a budget surplus, I will advocate for a modest increase for teachers that is fair for them, and for taxpayers.
Key Issue 3: I have said this from day one of my campaign: we must allocate maximum resources to early childhood education. Mountains of education research show the benefits of early education. It is successful across racial and economic lines. It is relatively inexpensive considering the educational gains that are achieved in later school years. In addition, there is economic benefit to our community as one study predicts a benefit of $8 of economic benefit for every $1 spent on early childhood education.
Assess the superintendent’s performance.
I support Supt. Mills, Dr. Greene and Mr. Hall. The district’s dramatic financial turnaround, the transparency of board deliberations and documentation, the budget and accounting professionalism and expertise shown over the past 18 months and the measured, educational gains that our students have shown. While students and teachers deserve much of the credit for those jumps in test scores, the district’s leadership should get some credit for putting resources, and the right people, in place to facilitate student achievement.

My only concern for Supt. Mills is how to rebuild trust between the leadership and the teachers. There is a perception among teachers and administrators that Mr. Mills has been heavy-handed in his personnel decisions and further, through investigations of school board employees. Whether or not these perceptions are fair is a matter of opinion; however we must deal with the reality that these perceptions are felt by teachers and administrators of the district. If elected, I would like to improve relationships among, not just our leadership downtown and teachers, but among all stakeholders in the school district.

Did you vote (or would you have voted) for or against Superintendent Rick Mills’ proposed two year-extension of his contract?
I would not have voted for it, and at the time made the following public statement: “One can see the positives in Supt. Mills’ performance over the past 15 months, however has this performance earned him these dramatic changes to his contract? He’s right, “stabilty is critical” for our success. However, young and new teachers are on year-to-year contracts, as are every principal and assistant in the county. Only experienced, tenured teachers have stability. Still in late May, many teachers and admins have no idea where (or if) they’ll be working next year. I hope the board will consider the stability and compensation of all school board employees. Further, I hope the superintendent holds himself to the same contract status, incentive structure and oversight process afforded to every school board employee.” (May 25)
What is your view of the Florida Standards and Florida Standards Assessments?
Having been a teacher for the past 10 years, I have seen a handful of “next big things” come and go. I believe Common Core (aka Florida Standards) will follow that pattern. With a change in leadership – in DC or Tallahassee – could come the end of CC/FS. One interesting difference between this movement and previous reform attempts is the political opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. It is interesting to see an education reform movement that angers the right over curriculum requirements and angers the left over a perceived preference for charter/private schools and the undermining of public education. However, my biggest concern with CC/FS is how education decisions are being taken out of the hands of individual states and local school boards, and are being made by the federal government. While it’s a noble concept to have nationwide standards and measurements, education has always been a local issue and I believe it should stay that way.
Should the School Board have someone conduct an anonymous survey of teachers and other personnel to determine the work “climate” in schools?
Provided the cost was minimal, I think an anonymous survey of teachers is a good idea. As a classroom teacher, I always ask my students for anonymous feedback at the end of the year so I can improve my performance. School administrators do the same. However, any one working in the Manatee School District, like I do, knows that morale is low. The sometimes controversial and heavy-handed style of human resources decisions has fostered distrust and brought morale to a low point. Therefore, I’m not sure we need a survey to understand this. However, if it could be done inexpensively, and cover every employee from custodians to administrators, then I don’t see why not. Otherwise, this survey would just tell us what we already know – morale is low.
Please state, in 250 words or less, why you believe you should be elected to this office.
My experience as an educator in Manatee County will give the public trust that they have a classroom teacher on the board who knows what students and teachers need to succeed. Further, I don’t bring a particular ideology or personal agenda to the board. As stated earlier, I want to build consensus among the board, leadership team and the public. Education is filled with political land mines but, despite these sometimes vitriolic arguments, I’m sure we all want the same thing: for our students to succeed and our schools to operate efficiently. If we can remove our own egos, partisan viewpoints, and personality conflicts and focus on our number one priority – kids – public trust can be fully restored in our school district.

Observer Newspapers Questionnaire

Manatee School Board

• NAME: Charlie Kennedy

• AGE: 44

• FAMILY: Single

• EDUCATION: B.A., Political Science, Univ. Of Pittsburgh ‘94
M.A., Social Studies Education, Duquesne University ‘03

• OCCUPATION: Teacher, Manatee High School

What specific skills or experience do you have that qualifies you more than your opponent to serve as a member of the Manatee County School Board? I have been a high school teacher for the past ten years. Our school board needs the voice and experience of an educator who knows the challenges of today’s students and teachers. Our board also needs an independent voice that has no connections to the factions and special interests that currently make our school board dysfunctional. For more details, please see my website –

What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them? While I think it is a noble ideal to have similar standards among all states to properly measure student progress and success, decisions about education have historically been made at the local level. I believe it should remain as such – under state and local control.

What do you see as the most crucial challenges that will face the school board in the next two years, and how would you propose these challenges be addressed? There are three challenges to the school board must address in the future. 1. Rebuilding trust between the community and the school board. Solution: transparency of actions and community input into all major school board decisions. 2. Rebuilding trust between school district employees and their central leadership. Solution: incentivizing teachers and staff to earn bonus pay for educational gains, positive performance reviews and developing new and imaginative curriculum. 3. Improving the educational outcomes of our most vulnerable populations. Solution: move people and resources into Pre-K and elementary schools, especially schools with large at-risk populations.

What is your position on:
Charter Schools? I think charter schools are a great idea so long as they are within the publicly funded school system. Many students would see immediate and long-term benefits from specialty charters (arts, technical skills, science, etc). It would also not only be satisfying for parents to have choices but also give a better educational experience for students.
Vouchers? Bad idea. Public money being diverted to private, for-profit and/or religious schools undermines the basic tenets of publically provided and equal education for all.

Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding? I would support it but I wouldn’t push for it. The citizens of Manatee County will not vote for, or support in any way, a tax increase. Therefore, we need to plan and budget within our current tax rates.

What is your vision for the Manatee County School District? By devoting resources and talented school employees to early childhood education we will see returns on those investments for many years to come. Manatee County’s ranking among Florida counties will rise into the top 10%. We’ll become a state leader in reading, math and science. We will be financially responsible which will lead to better credit worthiness and respect of the community. In addition, the entire community is improved by the economic benefits of investments in early childhood education, as demonstrated by multiple economists who have studied and documented this trend.

Tea Party Manatee questionnaire

Mr. Randy Turner
Tea Party Manatee
PO Box 14425
Bradenton, FL 34280

Mr. Turner, thank you for the opportunity to complete the TPM questionnaire. I realize you will be making your candidate endorsement decisions after your regular meeting this week, however I still look forward to the opportunity to address the full TPM membership – and engage in a broader Q&A session – at the July 24 meeting.

First, I would like to address what you refer to as “distinctives” at the close of the questionnaire. I believe what sets me apart is my experience as a classroom teacher. I have been a teacher for the past 10 years – in public, private and charter school settings. The reason I chose to run for school board is that I believed the board was missing the input of an educator in their deliberations and decision making.

Further, our school board is currently recovering from a severe budgetary crisis. While we have seen a great turnaround over the past 18 months, the board still has much work to do in rebuilding trust between the board and community (including teachers in the district). I pride myself on being a person who can listen to all sides of a debate and bring people together to find middle ground on which to build solutions.

I. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being most in favor), how enthusiastically would you say you believe in the following:
A. Strict adherence to and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution – Each court has its own personality and ideological slant. The 1960s Warren Court had a much different interpretation of the U.S. Constitution than our current Roberts court. Therefore, I think it’s fair to say I’m a “10” when I agree with the Court’s interpretation but I’m a “0” when I disagree. For example, the Court ruled Obamacare to be constitutional two years ago. More recently, the Court ruled corporations to be people and money is free speech. Both decisions were delivered by the same court but angered both sides of the American political landscape.
B. A balanced budget (federal, state, local, school) ”10” We all have to live within our means, therefore so should our leaders and our governments.
C. More limited role of government in education and life in general “10” I firmly support the Libertarian ideal of “keep government out of our lives”. This includes not only our economy but also the personal lives of the citizenry. When the government tries to legislate morality and personal responsibility they are bound to fail. The government’s only duty to regulate behavior should be when that behavior causes harm to another person. I also believe there is a role for government in the case of protecting the welfare of children, protecting the environment and the protection of consumers from unscrupulous corporate behavior driven by greed.
D. Free markets and / or free trade – ”7” Free markets are great as long as all economies are competing on a level playing field. It is hard for American companies to compete with Chinese manufacturers, for example, if Chinese workers can be paid $1 for their work.
E. God & country – traditional American family values – Every American should have the freedom to decide for themselves (and their families) what religion they choose (if any) and what values they hold to be important. It is not the place of the government, or any other person or group, to try to force their viewpoint or worldview on others.

II. CCSS (Common Core State Standards) – your evaluations and opinions, especially regarding
A. Its invasion of privacy by collecting and sharing much data regarding each child and his or her family – Clearly, the collection of personal data by the federal government is very troubling. The government tells us that it is up to the states whether or not they want to collect data on students under CC. Further, we are told the data that is collected will be used to look at whole groups, not individual students. However, in this era of widespread NSA domestic surveillance of our phone and email records, it is to be expected that the citizens should be concerned and vigilant about the collection of private data of children and families.
B. Its requirement that (1) grades 6-12 English teachers spend at least 50% of their time on nonfiction and informational texts such as US political documents, court decisions, and scientific and technical manuals, As a teacher of 11th and 12th grade social studies (most recently U.S. History) I have seen a new focus on students being able to read and analyze primary source materials. I think this is a positive development in education. Historical documents and court decisions are an important part of those primary sources. I have yet to see the use of a scientific or technical manual in an English or Social Studies class. (2) English teachers would need to be retrained in order to teach children how to read technical manuals instead of works of literature, and As I said above, I haven’t seen this is my 10 years of teaching. And assuming this were true, capable English teachers will do what they’ve always done – apply the same teaching methods that they have found to be successful. I do not believe any retraining will need to take place, although I’m skeptical of this requirement at all. (3) our children will no longer be taught cursive handwriting. I teach 11th grade and I have very few students who can write cursive. I don’t find this to be an impediment to their learning or success. Today’s students are growing up in a technological age. I believe that typing/keyboarding classes are far more important for today’s students than cursive handwriting.

III. Philosophies invading our schools – please comment or at least indicate to which of the following you hold:
A. Abortion and contraceptives vs. adoption and abstinence – Schools are a good place to provide sex education to young people. Providing students with information on their own bodies and their own sexuality will go a long way toward drastically reducing the number of unintended pregnancies (and therefore abortion) in our community.
B. The theory of evolution vs. intelligent design of creation – Students should be exposed to both theories and be allowed to form their own conclusions on the origins of man.
C. Hetero-sexual monogamy vs. bi-sexuality, homosexuality, and trans-genderism – All students should be treated equally and without discrimination regardless of their sexual orientation. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the law.
D. Man-made global warming – Students should be exposed to competing theories regarding climate change and be given the freedom to come to their own conclusions.
E. Socialism – Public school systems are, by their structure and funding, a socialist endeavor. We are using public money to provide a public good – an educated populace. Socialism as an economic system has been shown to be a failure. However, if we want to completely eliminate socialism from our society, should we also eliminate public schools?

IV. School vouchers – Bad idea. I am a supporter of public education and school vouchers undermine that concept. Allowing public money to support religious and/or a private, for-profit school is the antithesis of equal public education for all students.

V. Distinctives – Feel free to add any things that “set you apart” (see introduction) in this school board race, including (if you wish) your views on principles, policies, and/or procedures as contrasted with those of other school board candidates – perhaps in some of these areas:
A. Economy / efficiency – lowering the educational costs per student – I would like the see the class size amendment changed to allow for 3-7 (depending on grade level, subject) more students per classroom. This would lower the cost of education per student while not placing an undue hardship on classroom teachers.
B. Curriculum – is best decided by local school boards and local school leaders.
C. Textbooks – School districts should invest in computers and digital tools and less on textbooks. Almost all textbook companies now offer online textbooks and online activities. Our school district spends hundreds of thousands on textbooks and their supporting materials every 4-5 years. This massive investment in books could be better utilized in technology tools.
D. Testing – While assessing students on what they have learned and how they are progressing is a good idea, the testing, testing, testing mentality of American education has spun out of control. Today’s graduating classes have taken nearly 100 standardized tests through their K-12 education. Instead of raising children who are critical thinkers and problem solvers, we are raising a nation of test-takers.