Top Tweet Aug 11


Response to Pro-Life Voters

Jim and group,

I hope you don’t mind, but instead of replying individually I thought I would address the group so we’re all on the same page.   First, I appreciate your passion for your issue and upon reading your emails, I think you are correct.  My position on these issues is relevant as I will have a say over the education choices of our young people.  Health and reproductive education could potentially be one of those issues.

Also, Mr. Jacquith raises a good point – something I have prided myself on in this campaign – and that is “transparency”.   During this campaign, whenever I have received a questionnaire from a group, I have submitted those responses and then posted my answers on my website – – for voters to read on their own time.

That said, this is my position on the topics you bring up…

I have mixed feelings on abortion.   I think we all would like to see zero abortions, no matter what our beliefs.  As an educator, I believe high schools (and in some cases, even in middle schools) is a good time and place to introduce kids to information on their own bodies, how to protect themselves,personal responsibilities and how to avoid becoming pregnant.   This can include information on abstinence, birth control, and the dangers – physical and mental – of abortion.   And this information should be provided to boys also, as their behaviors could drastically reduce unintended pregnancy.

Reducing unintended pregnancy reduces abortion – this we can all support.   This is a very sticky political issue, but in my opinion, some of that age group is sexually active and we should make sure they should have as much information as possible so they can protect themselves.  I do NOT, however, believe schools should distribute birth control.

In general, I think abortion after the first trimester should be completely banned.   However, I can’t support a total ban as medical conditions arise.  In addition, I worry about the health consequences that would befall a young girl who becomes pregnant, and feels like she has no other option but to find a “back-alley” abortion doctor.  Being a high school teacher, I know the pressures young women are not only feeling from their peers about sexuality, but I know the pressures they feel at home.  As I said, this is a very personal issue for women to decide, and I am very conflicted.  I feel there are many shades of gray to the issue and to say one is either “with us or against us” is detrimental to having an open discussion or educational forum on the issue.

Planned Parenthood – I would never support school money going to PP, public taxpayer money going to PP or allowing PP to hold any activities in a school setting.  I am currently a high school teacher at Manatee High and I have never seen (or heard of) Planned Parenthood in any school in our county. I know our current school board would never let that happen in Manatee County. It may be happening in other counties or states but I can guarantee you this is not occurring in Manatee County schools.

I hope this covers the issues that have been brought up.  If you have more questions, or comments, I invite you to share them with me – and the whole group. And Mr. Styer, I hope you will share this response with others if you will be forwarding this message on as well.

One final note… this issue is a deeply personal one for me.  My mother, Rosemary, was like you… focused solely on abortion issue as a voter.  She would only vote for candidates who were pro-life.  She attended every March for Life in Washington, DC up until 1995 until her health made it impossible to travel.  She passed away in 1997 at the age of 53.  I don’t say this to tug at heart strings, but to let you know that I understand your position and the issue very well as I grew up in a pro-life household.  While my mother and I never agreed 100% (as I’m sure you don’t agree with me either) we did recognize the common ground we shared on the issue and always loved each other just the same despite our differences.

I thank you for all of your questions and I look forward to more dialogue with all of you.


Top Tweet Aug 5

Saving Millions on Health Care

Teachers, would you like to be healthier, happier and have more money in your paycheck?    re: Health insurance policy for school district…. at last night’s budget workshop, I asked the board to consider the idea of not only being self-insured, but also self-administering our own health plan for employees.It would be a long-term project, and would require the help of a Citizens Advisory Group of local experts. However, we could save millions of dollars per year by cutting out Blue Cross/Blue Shield – who we pay tons of money to for admin’ing our claims and for the use of their doctor network. Those millions saved would mean lower premiums for school employees, which would mean more money in our paychecks.It’s a big idea, with many moving parts and details to explore, but it’s time to think long-term about faculty/staff pay and benefits – and how to improve them.Mr. Gause, later in the workshop, requested the Health Insurance Committee contact all board members, as had previously been requested, and Supt. Mills said he would make sure that happened.   –


August Mailer

This will be hitting “supervoter” mailboxes in the next 4-7 days.

post card BIG front


post card BIG back


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.