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Sarasota School Board votes to suspend strategic plan

Board members emphasized a need for clarity and a "refocus on academics" in the strategic plan.

Board member Tom Edwards and Superintendent Terry Connor talk with Bryson Day, a Venice High School junior who was student representative at the Aug. 15 meeting.
Board member Tom Edwards and Superintendent Terry Connor talk with Bryson Day, a Venice High School junior who was student representative at the Aug. 15 meeting.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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The school board voted to place the district’s strategic plan on hold on Aug. 16, an action it had previously committed to taking during an Aug. 1 meeting. 

Vice Chair Karen Rose motioned for what she described as a “point blank" hold to allow Superintendent Terry Connor to bring the plan in line with his recommendations.

“We have all agreed that academic achievement is our focus, and I think a strategic plan that reflects that and allows us to see the growth — what you need as a superintendent, what this community needs, what our students need, and what our teachers and schools need, will be a tremendous success asset as well,” Rose said.

Connor said he is fully open to the board’s direction regarding the plan, whether that be starting from scratch, or modifying its existing features. 

“Having taken a look at the strategic plan, and hearing from each board member one-on-one in our discussions about the strengths of the strategic plan, and the areas of opportunity, I think it’s incumbent upon anyone who transitions into this role to take a look at the makeup of the current strategic plan to see what can we sustain and build off of, and what things we can maybe revise, change or add to,” Connor said.

He said the changes will be part of his 100-day transition process entering the role, but will probably move beyond the 100 days.

Board members' comments largely echoed their remarks during the Aug. 1 meeting. Chair Bridget Ziegler said it was important for the board to search for clarity and “refocus on academics” as a new superintendent joins the district, also citing ongoing discussions around the budget. 

Board member Tim Enos said he wanted the plan to include specific benchmarks for students.

Board member Tom Edwards said he supported the motion as a strategic plan should always be under a continuous improvement model, saying he was "OK" with a 100-day timeframe for Connor to redesign the plan. 

Finally, board member Robyn Marinelli said she believed the plan should feature a closer focus on academics, although the current areas of focus were still important.

During the Aug. 1 meeting, the decision had followed a debate over whether the curriculum promoted social-emotional learning, an education method which was banned at the state level by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The debate surrounded a budget item allocating about $57 million to an item to "enhance social-emotional learning and supports provided to students to promote belonging, dignity, and inclusion."



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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