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Manatee County School Board District 5: John Colon

James Golden faces John Colon.

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  • | 10:15 a.m. August 6, 2018
John Colon
John Colon
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Name: John A. Colón

Age: 67

Occupation: Senior Vice President- Investment Officer

Family: Married to Patricia Colón (39 years), Son, Felipe Colón (37).

Education: Queens College, Major in Political Science and Mass Communication, Minor in Education

Elected Government Experience:  Manatee County School Board, 2015 to Present.

Why are you running for this position? 

I am running for office to make sure that the children of our community receive the best education possible and the opportunities, success and fulfillment that we know a great education can provide.  Teachers and staff must have the resources to provide the best education possible in facilities that are secure, conducive to learning and foster a sense of community. 

What uniquely qualifies you for this position? 

I bring unique and specific skills to the board based on not only my professional background, but also my tireless work in the community and throughout the state in positions of public trust. In 2013 I was appointed to the State Board of Education, and was tasked with setting policy for all public schools in state. I have served as Chair or Co-Chair of the Manatee/Sarasota Chapter of UNCF for over 10 years, helping to provide college scholarships to many area students. My work with UNCF has given me personal experience with the needs and challenges of the students in our community and their families.  Since 2005, I have worked on the Sarasota Housing Authority Board to turn that organization around from one in federal receivership, to the number one rated housing authority in the state (2016).  This was accomplished by a combination of improved board oversight, long term strategic planning and successful bond issues.  My experience with the bonding process and municipal bonds has been an asset to other organizations and has also served Manatee county students, families and taxpayers.

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

The three most pressing challenges are: managing the district’s finances, assuring the safety of our schools, providing efficient and safe transportation of our students.  We have made considerable progress stabilizing the district budget through the tax referendum and our improved bond rating. We need to remain vigilant, transparent and accountable to keep our fiscal resources working for our students and staff today, and in years to come.  Concerning safety, fencing our schools with monitored access points should be the minimum standard to provide a safe learning environment.  Transporting students to and from school safely should be equally important, and we need to provide our drivers with the resources to be as professional and efficient as possible.

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

See answer 3 regarding school safety, fiscal oversight and transportation.

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

The superintendent search should begin immediately.  The board should cast a wide net in the search, but not necessarily rule out in house candidates.  The new superintendent should display effective leadership skills, maintain full communication with the board, and demonstrate high visibility throughout the district on an ongoing basis.

 Do you think the school board should consider in house candidates for the superintendent position? 

Absolutely. If we find someone in-house with the ability, temperament and drive to succeed, they should be considered. 

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

While I am not in favor of the district setting up its own police force at the current time, I do believe in a comprehensive approach to school safety that will equal, and ultimately exceed the possible benefits of a dedicated force.  Through the combination of law enforcement deputies, who we are already in place, and the new Guardian program, our district will have dedicated officers on each campus who are specifically trained and certified to work in the educational environment.  Protecting our schools is not a “set it and forget it” process.  Ongoing education, assessment and training exercises are necessary to make sure we are doing everything possible to secure our schools.  As the board receives feedback on these matters, it is possible that the idea of a dedicated security force will come up again, and it is our duty as a board to honestly deliberate the merits of that solution, at that point in time.   

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? 

A fiscally strong district is critical for the success of our students.  Keeping our new “A” bond rating allows us to borrow money at sharply reduced rates to ensure our students teachers and staff have all the tools they need to succeed.  Along with fiscal security, school safety is a top priority and will continue to be for many years.  We should also continue to assess how well we are educating our students for their next step in life.

In order to make all our students college and career ready it’s necessary for us to realize that all students don’t learn in the same fashion.  We need to embrace the idea that one size does not fit all, and instead provide choices and opportunities.  This starts in the classroom where we should provide teachers and guidance counselors the support to work with students in different ways.  We also must provide students the opportunity to go into apprenticeship programs through MTC which might give them jobs directly on graduation. MTC is an underutilized asset that can do a lot more for our students, and by extension our community as the needs of the 21st century workforce continues to evolve.














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