The Sarasota County School Board District 5 race is the only one of the three school board seats up for grabs this election with no incumbent. Sitting board member Kathy Kleinlein is not running for re-election.
Both prospective replacements, Jane Goodwin and Kathy James, are touting their experience. Goodwin is pushing her time as a teacher and work on school-referendum campaigns, and James is emphasizing that her experience as a parent with children in the Sarasota school system would make her the only such parent on the board.
“When I heard that no school board member had a small child in school, I was appalled,” said James. “How could they know the issues?”
Although Goodwin doesn’t have a child enrolled in Sarasota County’s schools currently, she does have two grandchildren who attend Gulf Gate Elementary.
She questions James’ commitment to the community.
“I’ve been involved in schools and the community,” she said. “My opponent has no experience in the community.”
Goodwin, 64, has worked either as a paid worker or volunteer on the past three school-referendum campaigns.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Georgia, the Georgia native began her career as a high school teacher. But two years later, she put her business degree to work, taking a job as a sales rep for IBM. She also worked for the Sarasota Family YMCA and the Home Builders Association.
Goodwin attends many school board meetings and said the friendships she’s made with the current board members is important.
“When you’re a school board member, you have to work together,” she said. “You can’t get anything done by yourself.”
Goodwin said, however, that her relationships with the other members will not prevent her from casting a dissenting vote.
“I’m absolutely not afraid to stand alone,” said Goodwin.
The former teacher is running for the school board, because she wants to help low-achieving students.
“They’re the ones I’m most concerned about,” she said. “We need to stop pretending that all students are going to go to college. Some have no idea what they want to do, so we have to instill a dream in them.”
James, 47, calls Minneapolis her hometown. She moved to Englewood 13 years ago, about a year after the first of her four children was born.
She is a licensed pharmacist who gave up her career after the birth of her son, now 14.
“We planned to get a nanny, but the minute I held him, I said, ‘There’s no way anyone else is going to raise my son,’” she said.
As her third child approached school age, James made the decision to home-school her to keep distractions to a minimum.
“We kept her home with us during kindergarten to set up the rest of her education,” she said.
James’ youngest is now 5, and she plans to home-school that child for one year, as well.
James is running on a platform of better communication with students, parents and the wider community and more fiscal responsibility.
“Keeping track of the money spent is a huge challenge,” she said. “There’s no transparency now, and that warrants suspicion. That needs to change.”
James also wants to maximize the community’s assets.
“We have a fabulous array of retirees,” she said. “They could work with students and inspire them.”
James said her goal would be to produce a better outcome for all students — improving graduation rates and lowering the number of high-school dropouts.
For Goodwin, a job as a school board member would be another step in her lifelong quest for knowledge. She said she loves to learn and help others.
“If this job didn’t have a salary, I’d still be running,” said Goodwin. “I have that much passion for it.”
Education: Business education and business administration degrees from the University of Georgia
Hometown: Rome, Georgia
Family: Divorced with one daughter and two grandchildren ages 6 and 8.
Education: Pharmacy degree from North Dakota State University
Family: Married with four children ages 5 to 14