TODD BOWDEN KNOWS THE DISTRICT from years serving as director of Suncoast Technical College. As he moves from a position with a vocational focus to one requiring leadership on the entire array of demands on K–12 education, he assures parents, teachers and students he remains committed to keeping Sarasota one of the top-ranked districts in the nation. Bowden succeeds Lori White, who served as superintendent for eight years. So what’s the history on the man in charge of lessons? We spoke with Bowden to learn the most important things in his life.


Lori White

She is the reason I have the confidence I can do this job. She went about leading the district in a very collaborative way. Because of that, I feel comfortable I don’t have to be an expert on each and every subject. She had an ability to know who to depend on and where to add her own flavor.


Raising Athletes 

I have two very active kids, so during my time outside work I am surrounded by sports. My daughter, Johnna, 13, is a goalie for the FC Sarasota soccer club. My son, Bobby, who is named after Bobby Bowden and is 12, is active in Tae Kwon Do, so we do karate tournaments all over the country. He’s a two-time state champ and once won a seven-state regional championship.


Grandfather’s Burial Flag

His name was Garland Garten. He was a World War II veteran with the US Army. That flag is proudly displayed in my home. That was given to me when my son was born 12 years ago; my mother gave it to me with my aunt’s blessing. My grandfather had two daughters and never had a son, so as a teenager, I would spend time in Moundsville, West Virginia where he taught me to fish and to golf.

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The Teacher’s Faith

I have an antique frame on an easel in my office that came out of my grandmother’s sixth grade classroom—she taught 6th grade for 36 or 37 years in West Virginia—and in the brass metal frame is “The School Teacher’s Faith.” It grounds me when I read it. It’s been with me the entire time. It provides continuity. Maybe my position has changed, but who I am and where I came from has not.


Garnet and Gold

I’m a die-hard Seminole fan. If it’s fall, it’s football season. Every year I spend time in Tallahassee around the college. When I was at Florida State, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it was in the middle of that dynasty. I feel a particular connection with Bobby Bowden, to whom I feel linked by life. Most ask if I’m related in any way; I’m not related, but I am a huge fan of his, not just of his professional body of work, but how he conducted himself on a personal level.


Sherri Sikes

I worked with her in Hillsborough County, but she is still Ms. Sikes to me. She was my high school guidance counselor, then hired me as a classroom teacher when she was an assistant principal. Then I became an assistant principal, and she moved to the district office as area director and hired me as a principal, so she is very near and dear to me. She’s incredibly patient and gathers a lot of information before making a decision. It was not uncommon to be in a meeting with Sherri and not hear her speak. She told me that once you’ve reached the role of principal or district administrator, others want to please you by mimicking your decisions. By getting to know their position first, you get unfiltered advice.


Lee Roy Selmon’s

I love their pork quesadilla; I’d drive 100 miles for it. I don’t know if it’s the pork or the barbeque and sour cream. Of course, I’m a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan so I always felt a connection to Lee Roy Selmon, first Hall of Fame inductee for the Bucs. 


Baptist Church of Brandon

While I attend Grace Church locally, my home church is still the church I grew up in, First Baptist Church of Brandon. I was born and raised and baptized there. Every significant event in my life, it feels like, took place on the grounds of that church. Profession of faith, baptism, marriage, funeral services. My daughter did her profession of faith at that church. It’s always nice to be surrounded by people who knew you when you were three.


Good to Great, by Jim Collins

Collins speaks to how you can take successful organizations and make them better. There are certain analogies to running schools, that they are wonderful but still need to be improved upon. I think the most important lesson is to continue to question your current condition and not accept it at face value. We are one of three A-rated school districts in the state, one of two that has always been A-rated, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to scrutinize who you are and areas of improvement. 


Tech-Free Time

I’ve never been an early adopter of technology. I carry a Samsung device that I call my electronic leash. I think technology binds us in a lot of ways. We recently went out west for a family trip, where we put 8,900 miles on a rented van in three weeks, and we went to national parks without internet access. I dearly loved it. We had a crate where everyone put the phones, and we opened the crate for an hour a day. It was nice to disconnect. We started out at Mount Rushmore, included Crazy Horse, went to Yosemite, down through the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, across the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Mesa Verde and Bryce Canyon.


American Gun, by Chris Kyle

It takes a unique look at American history and how technology has changed, particularly technology on the battlefield. It’s basically a history of the US in 10 firearms. It was Chris Kyle’s second book, after American Sniper. I was the kid interested in math and science, and history never really attracted me the way it attracted other people. This is the one book about US history that captivated me.