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Sarasota Monday, Aug. 6, 2018 3 years ago

Sarasota School Board, District 5: Pamela Gavette

Meet this candidate

Name: Pamela Gavette

Age:  48

Occupation: Teacher (currently substitute teaching)

Family (spouse/children, ages): Jeff Gavette, Zoë, & Maya (18 & 15)

Education: Bachelor of Arts, elementary education; gifted, University of South Florida

Elected government experience: none

Why are you running for school board?

My daughter has attended the same school most of her life and when she asked to pursue her associate's degree, she was given a choice to switch schools or give up $42,000 in college savings. Together, we changed the agreement between Sarasota County Schools and State College of Florida to allow students at her school to participate in dual enrollment. It became clear the School Board majority had no idea what they had done and there was little diversity of thought, so at the urging of my daughters, I decided to run to help all Sarasota’s students. 

What do you see as the top three challenges facing the district, and where do you stand on each?

  • Safety: I’ve been advocating for safety at our schools since 2008, when anyone could walk onto the campus. It took 17 deaths to get changes implemented that increase our children’s safety. I’ll continue to work collaboratively to prioritize the well-being of our students and teachers.
  • Require transparency: As a School Advisory Council member, I vigorously pursued budgetary transparency. Following the money took several months, endless roadblocks and three government levels to get the answer! We need full transparency.
  • Quality education: As a teacher and parent, I’m deeply concerned about the nearly 14,000 students reading below grade level. I’m the only candidate in my race that has taught students how to read.

What is your opinion of the school district’s plan to ultimately set up an in-house police force?

Student safety is a paramount concern.  The district is so used to operating behind closed doors that the information about the plan isn't forthcoming. What has been revealed is that the district spent over $500,000 on cars and is going to hire and train 14 people within the next month. What hasn't been revealed is a cost comparison between having the sheriff provide services and the in-house costs, a timeline and progress being made for that timeline, and what the quality of the police force will be.  The details haven’t been examined and I fear this is costly, dangerous experiment.

Discuss your position on Superintendent Todd Bowden.

Superintendent Bowden faces many critical issues:

  • Involvement in legal disputes (I disagree with taxpayers subsidizing his legal fees).
  • Alienation of community partners (Sheriff and SCF) due to ineffective communications. 
  • Hasty proposal to create an internal police force without a clear budget, project plan, timeline, or comparing options. 
  • Declining morale among staff. 
  • Ineffective rating on evaluation. It’s unfathomable the board majority supports a 7%+ raise, multi-year contract extension, and modification of his contract without more data related to outstanding issues.

What is your stance on charter schools?

Charter schools are public schools with a separate administration and perform at the same A-rating level as our other schools. My position is that I want all our schools to serve their students no matter what their label. Charter schools should meet a need that we’re currently not serving. For example, there are 14,000 students reading below grade level. If a charter school applied and had an adequate plan to teach these students how to read, the board should either serve the students or allow the charter.  I’d prefer we teach these kids, but currently the board isn't solving the problem.

What is your position on closing School Avenue on the campus of Sarasota High School?

Safety is one of my highest priorities. If the superintendent can demonstrate that closing School Avenue permanently rather than during school hours will significantly impact the safety of our children I can support it, but if the data isn't there then I think we need to discuss this with the local community to get their input.




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