Election 2014: Manatee County School Board

 

Election 2014: Manatee County School Board

 

Date: July 30, 2014
by: Observer Staff

 
 

This election installment features questionnaires for the Manatee County School Board for the Aug. 26 primary election. Although Manatee County School Board seats represent specific areas, all voters on each seat.

Manatee County School Board District 2

 


 

Charlie Kennedy
• AGE: 44
• FAMILY: Single
• EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in political science, University of Pittsburgh, 1994; master’s degree in social studies education, Duquesne University, 2003
• 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 10 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.

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 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 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: Incentivize teachers and staff to earn bonus pay for educational gains, positive performance reviews and developing new, imaginative curricula. 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 publicly provided and equal public 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 to 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 the 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.

 

Rodney Jones
• AGE: 47
• FAMILY: Single, four children
• EDUCATION: Manatee High School; associate’s, Manatee Community College; bachelor’s, University of South Florida
• OCCUPATION: Working at Universal Health Systems as a night-time technician during campaign; hopes to return to position at State College of Florida in September

 

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?
It has been a natural progression for me to be running for school board after more than 20 years of dedication and service to our community. I have a style of leadership that brings people together to work toward common goals. Programs I have directed have been recognized at the state level for effectiveness.

My opponent, on the other hand, is almost impossible to vet, because he has had almost no community engagement. I personally asked him outside of his paid profession as a teacher, where has he chosen to dig and help since the district has been in decline? His response was, “I really have almost no community service.” He has chosen not to get involved. He has not shown any leadership in our community, nor has he given back at what I would consider to be a respectable level anywhere.

What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them?
I am not a fan of Common Core renamed as the Florida State Standards. From its isolated, nontransparent creation, almost solely funded by the Gates Foundation, to its implementation for grades three through 12, it smells of agenda.

Poverty still remains the most pervasive issue. The Florida State Standards came down swiftly, with the student assessment not in place, teacher evaluation not in place, and school-grading system not in place, and it carries a host of unfunded mandates.

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?
A divided community and board that do not work well together or appear not to trust each other. Some board members are for the new administration, and I believe some are not. Our community is divided, and our school board is fragmented. We must get back to working together while getting our focus back on teacher supports, which lead to student performance.

What is your position on:
Charter Schools?

I support them. One of my daughters attends a public charter school. What I do not support as it relates to charter schools is the large overhead in the form of management companies, where operationally, at the
school level, schools struggle to gain the resources to appropriately instruct
students.
• Vouchers?
• I feel the dollars should always follow the student. Our current full-time equivalent (FTE) system can be considered flawed. After a student is counted during the assessment week in October and February annually, if the student moves to another school, his FTE remains with the former school. The receiving school receives no dollars to support the education of the incoming student. I do support school choice.

• Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding?
I would not currently support any increase in millage or any other tax increase at this time. I think we need to get stable first and look at our functioning in a stable environment. People often believe that throwing money at a problem provides the remedy. All I know is that in the middle of chaos, budget shortfalls and fines from the state, we are managing to wiggle our way to the black and make initial small gains in student performance. Somewhat defies traditional logic, doesn’t it?

• What is your vision for the Manatee County School District?
My vision is simply one of greatness. I believe we have the talent, will and desire to return to a position of prominence. I know that if we are transparent, hold staff accountable, act as good stewards and find any way to include the community in the discussion and decision-making process, we will be successful.


Manatee County School Board District 4

Frank Brunner
•AGE: 47
•FAMILY: Married with two children
•EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in general engineering, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
•OCCUPATION: Executive director, Manatee County CrimeStoppers

 

• 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?
Served successfully for 10 years on the Manatee School Board (1996-2006):

• Student achievement: 75% of schools were A’s or B’s, with no Ds or Fs. Manatee now has 10 D and F schools;

• Fiscal stewardship: Under my leadership, Manatee schools received the Gold Seal for best financial management in the state from the governor. Manatee rated in top five districts in the state for the percentage of dollars that went into the classroom versus administration.

• Graduation rates were up, and dropout rates were down.

Also: Product of Manatee schools; parent of current students; husband of a 30-plus year educator

• What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them?
Review and revision of Florida State Standards ensure students receive a world-class education, allowing them to compete in the 21st century. I’m concerned about the Common Core curriculum being foisted upon schools. Standards establish what students should be, know and do in each grade. We need a community curriculum committee comprised of educators, parents and residents to review textbooks and instructional materials to ensure students learn the priorities and values of our community while meeting high standards.

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?
• Improving student achievement: Reading scores are below state averages in ALL grades. Writing and science scores aren’t much better. Emphasize reading, the foundation for all learning. Partner with pre-K programs so students come to school prepared. Partner with youth organizations to create tutorial and remedial programs before and after school.

• Provide leadership to restore respect and trust. Eliminate fear and intimidation.

• Restore the district’s financial health. Start with the board updating policies and procedures, which provide guidance and oversight.

• What is your position on:
•Charter schools?

Charter schools offer parents and students with educational choices and opportunities. The district must provide oversight to ensure quality. Research shows improved student performance when students are engaged in thematic learning in areas that interest them versus a one-size-fits-all approach.
•Vouchers?
Students using tax-funded vouchers should be required to take state assessment tests to ensure they are receiving a quality education. If results show the student isn’t achieving at acceptable levels, he or she should be required to return to public schools. If a child returns to the public schools midyear, a pro rata share of the voucher should be refunded back to the public schools to pay for educational services.

Bottom line: Vouchers should be used to ensure the student’s educational needs are met, and the money should follow the student.

• Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding?
Not at this time. Elections cost money, and until our district regains the trust of our community, it would be a waste of money. Much improvement is required on financial management and student achievement before our community would support such an initiative.

• What is your vision for the Manatee County School District?
Improve student performance to exceed state averages at all grade levels and subject areas. Restore trust and respect for our school system in both our community and around the state. Restore financial health to the school district in order to provide the environment, support and resources for our teachers to teach and our students to learn.

 

Karen Carpenter
• AGE: 71
• FAMILY: Single with two daughters and four grandchildren
• EDUCATION: Graduated from Reading, Mass. public high schools; bachelor’s degree, Wellesley College; master’s degree, U.S. International University; JD, Massachusetts School of Law; graduate courses at Tufts University and Institute for Financial Education
• OCCUPATION: Manatee County School Board, 2010 to 2014

 

• 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 really don’t know my opponent’s qualifications but can speak to the depth and length of my experience in managing and leading in the private and nonprofit sectors. My jobs were the result of hard work, integrity and bottom-line focused results. The discipline required to achieve results in highly regulated environments demanded intense focus and compliance with all laws, standards and regulations. This rigorous background helped me in insisting that the former administration meet its statutory obligations.

The vigilance required as a school board member to keep children safe so that they can learn, dream and achieve is the same vigilance required in demanding financial accountability and transparency. This vigilance is virtually identical to the skill of due diligence as a banker, real estate lender, lawyer and investor-relations counsel.

• What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them?
I like the essential aim of nurturing curiosity, collaboration and developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills in order for Florida’s students to be competitive, both in the United States and worldwide. I am totally opposed to federal control of our schools, as well as the state imposing unfunded and other mandates, unrealistic schedules and a lack of collaboration with local districts.

• 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?
The most crucial challenges include staying the course of vigilance, demanding professional management, accountability and transparency, to focus on student learning. We must not return to the old system of hiring based on cronyism, nepotism and fraternization. Adherence to the rule of law, compliance with state statutes, the auditor general and best practices management are all critical.

• What is your position on:
• Charter Schools?

I am in favor of locally controlled, nonprofit, high- performing charter schools. These provide more choice and solid options for learning but must be held to the same rules as the non-charter public schools
• Vouchers?
I believe the money should follow the child: This affords greater competition and parental control.

• Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding?
Not today or tomorrow. The Manatee School District needs to earn the support and respect of the taxpaying public by being more transparent and accountable and producing continued gains in student learning. At some undetermined time in the future, I hope we can receive additional funding, like Sarasota.

• What is your vision for the Manatee County School District?
I believe the best is yet to come, in student learning, my number one priority. There is a tremendous opportunity right now for us to get the finances structured correctly around students resulting in a highly performing district. We have begun this process but need to continue the changes required, which some who preferred and benefitted from the old ways, do not want.

My vision is a great district, with academic, organizational and financial excellence. We have begun this transformation.


Manatee County School Board District 5

Julie Aranibar
• AGE: 54
• FAMILY: Single; two children
• EDUCATION: Bachelor’s in business and professional management
• OCCUPATION: Molecular histologist, medical practice management, Manatee County School Board

 

• 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 volunteer and supporter of our public schools since 1999. I am the only candidate who spoke publicly about concerns for budget shortfalls and deficits from previous Florida state auditor general reports, including more than 40 deficiencies.

I am the only candidate who has gone through the process of hiring a new superintendent through a public and transparent process, which has given me great insight into the structure and needs of our district.

• What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them?
I want our students to be able to compete in and out of state, and I support increasing standards as the best means of preparation for success.

I want to be assured that tests are aligned to curricula for each grade level. Teachers also have new pay-for- performance measures, and my concern is that we rolled all of this in a short time, and it is a lot of change.

• 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?
The next year, local politics may determine if the current administration remains in place or is derailed by a board that uses the present contract language of requiring three votes to remove the superintendent.

Those who are no longer in a position of power have mobilized politically to gain that required third vote.
Should the board stabilize and support the present superintendent and administration, the district will move on with the first balanced and verified budget and education as a priority. Our bond rating has dropped to a BBB, which puts us at risk.

• What is your position on:
• Charter Schools?

We have some excellent options available for our students, and we encourage parents to find what is the best fit and environment for their children.

• Vouchers?
I have no issue with having or not having vouchers because I believe we are heading in the direction of parents having choice, and district boundaries will exist for transportation concerns and costs. No matter where a student attends school, voucher or no voucher, the same rules for accountability and reporting requirements should be consistent and standardized.

• Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding?
Prior to asking the public to trust our school district with a new tax, we should recover financially, continue to have our educational house in order, implement needed changes and controls, continue to see strong educational gains and increase our state ranking. Only then can we have the public discussion on added taxation.

• What is your vision for the Manatee County School District?
I would like to see a financially secure, well-managed district, which is dedicated and focused on student learning and achievement. I look forward to seeing Manatee move to not just average, but among the top 20, and then the top 10 schools of our state. I look forward to addressing the immediate need of a high school in the Parrish area that has the best agriculture program in the state and at least one more elementary school and middle school in the northeast county.

Finally, Manatee County needs career and technical high school, which will provide students an opportunity to learn a skill or trade and prepare for a career that will keep them on a path of lifelong learning and achievement.

Mary Cantrell
• AGE: 70
• FAMILY: Married with five children
• EDUCATION: Bachelor’s in education from the University of North Texas; master’s in administration and supervision from the University of South Florida; Ph.D. in vocational curriculum from the University of South Florida
• OCCUPATION: Former director of Manatee Technical Institute

 

• 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?
My work experience in education has given me experience at all levels of education.

As director of MTI, I had the opportunity to work with business and industry to ensure that the school’s curriculum was industry-driven.

• What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them?
I believe in establishing high standards of excellence. I am not comfortable with standards that were written with little or no input from local sources. Education is a local issue and should not be dictated from a national level.

• 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?
• Adequate funding will continue to be a challenge. One way to reduce costs is to have more school-based management. If the principal, staff and the school improvement committee work together to manage the school’s budget, it is easier to get staff to “turn out the lights.” The school’s budget should be based on the funds the school earns based on the number of students.

• Staff morale must also be addressed. Trust must be rebuilt. Instead of looking back to see the source of all our problems, now is the time to bury the past with good news about our students’ achievements that are the result of excellence. Now is the time to look locally for new employees. When most of the top 20 school district leaders are from outside Manatee County, it sends a message that anyone from Manatee is not an acceptable applicant.

• What is your position on
• Charter schools?

• When we (the school district) fail to meet the needs of parents, the parents look to charter schools to offer what they are seeking. I would prefer that all of our schools work with their staff and community to develop unique-selling points that meets the specific needs of their neighborhood.
• Vouchers?
• No student should be forced to attend a failing school. If a child is assigned to a failing school, the parent should have the option of sending his/her child to a successful school. Every student we lose to a charter school or with a voucher to attend a private school hurts the district’s bottom line. We must address the positive difference a good teacher makes and provide training and incentives for all teachers to be one of the good teachers.

• Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding?
• Not at this time because I don’t believe that we have the trust in enough of the voters to have their confidence that the additional funds will be wisely spent. We are getting there.

• What is your vision for the Manatee County School District?
I see a school district composed of excellent schools. Each school has its own unique features that enable parents to select the right school for their child.

• I see dedicated teachers who have a role in the instrument that is used to evaluate their performance, which is based on the documented achievement of students who have been in their classrooms. The evaluation instrument to document these learning gains would be different based on the class the teacher is teaching.

• I see a school district that has developed a career ladder for teachers and principals that enables teachers and principals to remain in the classroom or be school based; currently, teachers must leave the classroom to be in a higher paying positions; principals typically leave the school to become district-level employees to be in higher pay positions. We need our best teachers and principals to continue in those roles.

• I see a school district that has developed a career ladder for support staff that offers the employee an opportunity to stay in a position and earn additional funds for documented growth in the position.

• I see students excited about attending the school of their choice. I see students excited about learning. I see students who know that are respected members of the school community. I see students who know that someone at the school cares about them.

James T. Golden
• AGE: 66
• FAMILY: • Married; blended family of six children
• EDUCATION: Bachelor’s in business administration, Stetson University; juris doctor, University Of Florida; master’s of divinity, Atlanta University
• OCCUPATION: Attorney, James T. Golden, Esq.; pastor, Ward Temple A.M.E. Church in Bradenton

 

• 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?
Two four-year terms on the nonpartisan Bradenton City Council; elected for a one-year term by fellow council members as vice mayor; secretary/treasurer, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council; chairman, Municipal Service Delivery Council, Florida League of Cities; member, Legislative Advocacy Committee, Florida League of Cities; elementary, junior high and high-school substitute teacher; president of the Johnson Middle School Parent Advisory Council

• What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them?
The standards are part of a national effort to create world-class, competitive schools for all students. Former Gov. Jeb Bush supports them, I support them, and I regret that some Florida citizens use them to advance their political agenda

• 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?
Securing maximum community and parental involvement; assuring students and school personnel that they are superintended by committed administrators; reassuring every stakeholder that the public school system is being governed by a school board that is totally committed to a nonpartisan agenda of excellence through education.

• What is your position on:

• Charter Schools?
I support charter schools that fill specific, unmet needs in our public school system that cannot as effectively and efficiently be filled by a non-charter public school.

• Vouchers?
I do not support the use of public tax dollars to finance the educational needs of public school students who choose to attend private schools. I do not support the granting of tax credits to businesses that underwrite the funding of vouchers for private school education of low-income public school students who might not be able to attend otherwise.

• Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding?
The question, as posed, lacks information about what a proposed tax increase might be used for, when the last tax increase occurred, and what the previous tax increase was used for. Even for worthy purposes, I would only support a tax increase as a very last resort.

• What is your vision for the Manatee County School District?
 Manatee County students must have the unconditional opportunity to succeed in a safe and secure learning environment from pre-K through 12th grade — whether that learning is focused on academics, technology or vocational training. Schools must produce graduates who are competition-ready, whether they stay in our local community, pursue higher education or venture out to other national or global venues.

Carlton Les Nichols
• AGE: 36
• FAMILY: Married with three children and one grandchild
• EDUCATION: Attended Coastal Carolina University
• OCCUPATION Community manager with Argus Property Management

 

• 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?
As a former Marine, I was exposed to some of the best leadership training this nation provides. As a proven leader, I successfully manage my communities to better serve their homeowners, as well as work with local businesses to act as partners in our communities’ success. Conservatively managing finances, budgets and the day-to-day operations allows the homeowners to have faith in their respective communities.

• What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them?
What I do like is the idea of critical thinking. We, as a district, state and nation need more of this. What I don’t like is the way it was implemented. It should have gone to the public for input, which it did not. I believe we need a higher level of educational standards, but these should be left up to the state and district to decide, not an outside entity.

• 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?
The greatest challenge we have is building trust back into this community. Our teachers, who are the backbone of this school district, need to be heard, as well as our parents. In order for this district to improve, our elected leaders have got to start listening to those who hold our educational future in their hands. Once elected, this will be my priority. I will be in the schools with the teachers and meeting with parents on a regular basis. Together, we can share ideas and share solutions to our problems of this district.

• What is your position on:
• Charter Schools? Vouchers?

I am for both. I believe all parents should have a choice in where their child is educated.

• Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding?
I believe that this can be discussed at a later date. First, let’s see how the school district’s finances look in a year. I believe we have enough funding now to properly manage and improve this school district at this present time. I am always against raising taxes. We shouldn’t have to put the burden of the mistakes of the past on our taxpayers.

• What is your vision for the Manatee County School District?
The vision for Manatee County should be a shared vision of unity, community and success. My goal is to bring the community back together to work together to reach that high level of education our students deserve. I believe in our educators, parents and students in that they will help the Manatee County School District to be the best in the state.
 

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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • Rodney Jones on teachers: "I never considered teaching as community service." Naturally then, Mr. Jones thinks I haven't done anything to serve my community. By the way, this comment is documented, not some fabricated quote that Mr. Jones made up out of thin air and included in his questionnaire.

    I have been open and honest about my opinions and have specific ideas for the future. I have done grassroots fundraising through family, friends, and colleagues.

    My opponent refuses to share any opinions or ideas with voters. Look at his responses above, do you see any solutions or specific ideas? He has raised $1000s from developers. What will they expect in return? He is aligned with both sides of our current board's dysfunction through endorsements and campaign contributors.

    We need an independent voice of an educator on the School Board, not another sellout to special interests and politics as usual.
  •  
  • Charlie Kennedy
    Thu 31st Jul 2014
    at 8:36am
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