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Sarasota Thursday, May 21, 2015 5 years ago

OUR VIEW | Smackdown of Bridget

After rookie School Board member Bridget Ziegler posted her rationale for a vote on social media, her colleagues delivered a thinly veiled rebuke. The message: Watch your mouth, missy.

It has been a month and a half, but many of you still will remember the cyclone that whirled about the Sarasota County School Board over its selection of a construction manager for the Suncoast Technical College’s North Port campus.

At the recommendation of Superintendent Lori White, the board voted 4-1 to bypass its selection committee and go with Willis Smith Construction. 

The lone “no” vote came from Bridget Ziegler, the rookie board member who was elected last November.

The day after the vote, Ziegler, age 32, posted her rationale and comments on her Facebook page (see box).


At the April 21 School Board meeting, Ziegler’s fellow board members delivered to Ziegler what easily can be called a smackdown, chastising her for seven minutes for speaking out and not following the other members’ board protocol. 

Talk about taking Ziegler to the woodshed. “Hey, missy, you need to learn a thing or two before you go spouting off.” That’s the way it comes across. 

Among the disturbing comments came from board member Jane Goodwin: “I just hope in the future you’ll … consider that you have a loyalty to this board and … we represent the Sarasota County School Board …”

No mention of loyalty to taxpayers.

Here’s the verbatim smackdown:


Shirley Brown: I don’t know when we had talked about this, or if this something we learned at a retreat, but that we are one body, and that when we take a position on something as a board, we should follow through on that, and we shouldn’t try to pick it apart. 

I was a little concerned this week that after the board voted one way on something. Something else came up again on a website and again talked about what I thought was an issue that I thought was already resolved in the discussion, and that was the cost of the project manager. And that we weren’t voting on the dollars to allocate to it, we were just voting on that. 

And I just found it a little disconcerting that it showed up on a website or Facebook that this is where we’re at. We should look more to resolving those things and meeting with superintendent when clarification is needed.

Frank Kovach: Shirley, I agree with what you said. I read the same post. I find it more disconcerting than anything when board members intentionally pass on this information for political gain. That really bothers (me). We know what the truth is, we know what information was out there. When I continue reading it in the paper, that’s one thing, but when it’s repeated by board members that really bothered (me). 

Bridget Ziegler: I personally don’t think that that one item should be completely discounted. My decision wasn’t too based on that … I did my due diligence and talked to lots of people in that industry. I guess we agree to disagree …  But I’ll say moving forward, I do agree with what the board has decided and then you move forward. I was just clarifying where I stood.

Caroline Zucker: Could I ask: Did you speak with the superintendent about that issue so that she could help you
better understand that it wasn’t a bid?

Shirley Brown: Do you meet with the superintendent? I meet with her every Monday … I’m reminded of an editorial the Herald-Tribune had about a then local senator who did something. They said she either did it on purpose, knowing she was wrong or she was doing it for a reason, and it said either way, it said she is either a fool or a tool. 

What bothers me is that I don’t want any of us to have that put against us. Because what goes against one, goes against all. When the public hears something is going wrong with the school board, they don’t hear that it is this board member or that board member. They remember it as the school board. 

I just think that we should all try to make sure we put our best face forward in the public and when we’re speaking as a school board member. And that we remember it reflects on all of us. It doesn’t help any of us and surely doesn’t help our school system if we have negative stuff out there.

Frank Kovach: Probably in my 14, 15 years on the school board, I probably have been in the minority of the vote more than anybody that I have ever known. That doesn’t mean I don’t support the decision. I sure as heck don’t go around telling people that the rest of the people made the wrong decision.

We made a board decision, and once you make a board decision that doesn’t mean I’m going to necessarily stand up and say I agree with decision, but I’m not going to demean the rest of the board on their decision. 

Jane Goodwin: I think you have to be careful with that. We want to have a great board. We want to not be divisive and fractured. To have a great board you got to trust each other. And you’re now building that up as a new board member. 

When I first came on the board in 2010, I sat back and listened an awful lot for the first year because I thought there was so very much I could learn. And when I had questions, I went to the superintendent or through to the staff members to get answers…  

I just hope in the future you’ll go to the right place, but consider that you have a loyalty to this board, and this is a job that we have all undertaken very seriously, and we represent the Sarasota County School Board…

I have a great deal of loyalty to the decisions that are made via the school district and school board. I just hope that you’ll be there with us and not against us.



SCHOOL BOARD UPDATE — Yesterday, the School Board voted 4-1 to ignore the selection committee’s recommendation for who will build the new STC Campus. I was the 1 vote, and here are my reasons: 

(1) Branding, and specifically the need to match the North and South campuses, was referenced as the reason to override the selection committee’s recommendation. We are using the same architect for the North Port Campus, as we did for the North County Campus. Any qualified CM who follows the specifications and project scope (set by the architect) will be able to achieve an end product to match the North County Campus. 

(2) AD Morgan, the selection committee’s recommended Construction Manager, presented project cost estimates that were $4.5 Million less than the competition. That’s $4.5 Million of taxpayer money. 

We MUST be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and (read #1) the branding explanation doesn’t justify $4.5 Million. 

(3) We MUST respect the integrity of our committee selection process and avoid the perception of favoritism. If we ignore or deviate from our set rules, simply based on relationships or past experiences, it will discourage other companies from providing bids in the future. This could lead to less options for review, a lack of competition and higher costs for taxpayers.


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