BIRTHPLACE: Manatee County
FAMILY: Parents, Dave and Karen, brothers Allen and Jeff his wife, Ashley, two nephews, Jackson and Oliver
EDUCATION: Jessie P. Miller & Oneco Elementary, Sugg Middle, Manatee High School, Manatee Community College and Florida State University
PROFESSIONAL CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: I worked in both the Florida Legislature, as an analyst on the Rules, Ethics and Elections Committee and as chief aide to house members. I was also honored to work in the United States House of Representatives as an aide to Congressman Dan Miller. I have been teaching since 2003 at Lakewood Ranch High School, honors economics and Advanced Placement American government. I have also served as lead teacher for the Business and Technology Academy and as a varsity baseball coach.
FUN FACT: I have been in a portable classroom much of my educational life. At Oneco Elementary School in the fifth grade, at Manatee High School while they rebuilt the Davis Building, and for the last 10 years at Lakewood Ranch.
What attributes do you bring to this office that separate you from your opponent?
As a teacher, I bring real classroom experience and a student-first perspective to this office. From my time in government I bring actual legislative experience in setting policies and crafting budgets both on a state and national level. Having been in a classroom trying to carry out poorly crafted policies from all levels, I understand the combined effects on a student’s education. It is the most important attribute a school board member can have.
What specific skills or experience do you have that qualifies you more than your opponent to serve as a member of the Manatee School Board?
I know education both as a teacher and as a policymaker. Having taught in our schools, I have the experience to change and reform our system to make it work for our students. Working in Tallahassee and Washington, I have attended hundreds of meetings, but until you actually work to carry out those policies you never really understand them. It is the day-to-day work of education, not our meetings, that is the most important part of our school system, and everything we do should support and empower our teachers and students to achieve.
What do you see as the primary responsibilities of the Manatee School Board?
The primary role of the Manatee School Board is to set the vision and policies for the school system and hold the administration accountable for carrying them into effect. We must free our schools and teachers to do what is best for our students and have to stop the administration and departments from trying to micromanage every class. Our teachers must be accountable, without question, but they should have the freedom to decide what happens in their own classes. There is no one right education for all children, but there is a right education for each child. It is our schools’ and teachers’ jobs to deliver that right education.
What is your view of the FCATs?
There is no doubt that the FCATs have increased the performance of our schools and improved the education we give to our students. However, the multitude of changes and added weights of the last few years have changed the focus and damaged our students. We must have accountability in our schools, and in our administration. We must be able to use the assessments to measure our students and provide remediation, a step we currently don’t take. These accountability measures must help and direct our education, not be the sole point upon which we are graded and the focus of the entire year.
What do you see as the biggest challenges that will face the school board in the next two years, and how would you propose these challenges be addressed?
The biggest challenges over the next two years will be finding the right person to lead our school system as superintendent and to fix the budget damage of the previous administration without harming our students or classrooms. We must transition to the Common Core standards and adopt electronic textbooks by 2015; if we cannot repair our budget or choose a leader with the vision to change our schools, we will be robbing our students of a tremendous opportunity.
What will be your three top priorities if you are elected?
First we have to transform our budget to a zero-based budget and make our students the center of every decision. The budget must be transparent, searchable, posted online and easy for everyone to understand.
We must end our one-size-fits-all, district-driven curriculum. We have to let our teachers make the best decisions for our students, and hold our teachers and schools accountable. We cannot mandate those decisions from a downtown office and believe it will work. That is what we have been doing, and every year our results get worse.
We have to bring real systematic change to our elementary schools. We must change our assessment policies that result in teachers spending 20 to 30 days a year doing one-on-one testing. It amounts to almost a half a year of learning being missed by the time a student reaches the third grade and takes the FCATs for the first time. We must also make sure every child is ready to learn and succeed before we promote them to the next grade. Our current forced promotion policy is failing our students.
What is your position on:
I am in favor of letting our schools compete for our students.
I am not in favor of vouchers for private religious schools.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent, how would you rate the performance of Superintendent Tim McGonegal?
What is your vision for the office of the Manatee County Public School District?
I envision a school system where the individual student is at the heart of every decision. A system where we embrace the use of technology to transform our classrooms to match educational needs of the student. A system where each student graduates prepared for college or a career with the skills and abilities needed for success. That is my vision.
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