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East County Monday, Aug. 6, 2018 1 year ago

Manatee County School Board District 2: Charlie Kennedy

Alice Kaddatz challenges incumbent Charlie Kennedy.
by: Observer staff

Name:   Charlie Kennedy

Age:  48

Occupation: School board member

Family: Wife, Lisa Ramirez

Education:   Bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh in political science; and master's degree from Duquesne University in education

Elected government experience:  Manatee School Board 2014-present

Why are you running for this position?    

The district has made a dramatic turnaround from nearly being taken over by the state in 2012.  I’ve been a small part of the team that made that happen. I want to continue that forward progress toward being an "A" school district.

What uniquely qualifies you for this position?   

I have tried to be a consensus-builder and problem-solver during my time on the board. I have been available and responsive to anyone who has reached out to me, across any medium. After four years on the board, I have knowledge, through personal experience, of the challenges we are facing going forward and have overcome in the past. I believe I have the experience, in the classroom and now boardroom, the right temperament and a track record of being part of a team that has seen our school district begin to recover from financial dark days.

What do you see as the three biggest challenge facing the district and how do you propose to address them?

Continued financial stability, improving credit ratings and fund balance reserves.     Improving board unity and the school district’s public image. Ensuring oversight and proper use of 1 mill referendum funds for a 2022 re-approval.   

What ideas do you have for improving the district's operations?   

As demonstrated by the past six years of recovery, rising reserves and improving audits (internal, external and the state of Florida), I have complete confidence in our district’s budgeting and finance departments, including CFO Heather Jenkins and her team.

 How and when do you feel the board should move forward with the superintendent search?  

We should convene a citizens committee to assist the board with the search. We should also enlist the help of FSBA (Florida School Board Association) and FADSS (the Superintendents Association) to assist in our search to compile a list of the best candidates with Florida experience for vetting and interview by the board, school employees, parents and our citizens committee. 

Do you think the School Board should consider in-house candidates for the superintendent post. Why/not?   

First and foremost, we need a person with deep knowledge of Florida school law and finance. With the constantly evolving and increasing demands placed on public education by the Florida legislature, while at the same they funnel public dollars to unaccountable private and for-profit charters, our new superintendent must have years of experience in Florida schools. If that person is an in-house candidate, that would be the best option.

What is your opinion of the school district’s plan to ultimately set up an in-house police force, both short and long-term?    

There is no plan in Manatee to create a school district police department. We plan, and have executed contracts, to continue partnerships with local governments in Manatee County, for our School Resource Officer forces to be supplemented with guardians on elementary campuses. 

What other issues do you see as important for the district to address over the next three years and what ideas do you have about them?   

In the short term, the search for a new superintendent and resolving the dissension that has dominated the board this year.  In the long term, stability and oversight of school finances (referendum funds for our employees and half-cent sales tax for buildings), continuing to move Manatee Schools toward being an A-rated school district, attraction and retention of quality employees in a statewide and nationwide teacher shortage and improving health outcomes for our employees and students.


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