School Board Candidates Tackle Leadership Tactics



Editor's Note: Part 2 of 2.

Political controversies surround education, and a Sarasota School Board race pitting incumbent Shirley Brown against retired administrator Karen Rose has seen sharp disagreement on a number of issues even while both stress credentials in support of public schools. As school safety rose to become a central issue in school races around Florida following a shooting a Parkland high school, the rhetoric only has increased.

Right now, Brown feels public education faces funding threats from Tallahassee, and suggests her time as a state representative for the area offers insight and understanding and she works with lawmakers today. She noted recent discussions on tax rates where she convinced lawmakers to leave new construction out when calculating rollback rates for takes. But Rose feels fights with Tallahassee have come to dominate local politics to too great an extent. She declines to go in-depth about legislative issues like the expansion of vouchers, but notes only 1 percent of the district’s budget now goes toward vouchers. Rose did say she would have voted against the recent Pinecrest charter school proposal, as Brown did. Charter schools, both agreed, can play a role in area education but should not be run by for-profit corporations from outside the area.

Brown says the board has recently faced too much political divisiveness in part because of the arrival of Ziegler, who is more sympathetic to a Tallahassee agenda. She dislikes that Ziegler now serves as chair for the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, which often has a counter agenda to the Florida School Boards Association. Rose says she has not decided which of those organizations she will join if she gets elected to the school board. 

On public safety, Rose says the school superintendent should continue working with the sheriff and area law enforcement on securing campuses, as opposed to a recent move to start a district police force. Brown, who has supported the new force, says insistence by the sheriff to work with the board instead of the superintendent made such a relationship impossible. Rose heavily criticized Brown for missing a recent workshop called by School Board chair Bridget Ziegler on the issue. “Our families and teachers have to know we are giving them the highest protection this community has to office,” Rose said. Brown was out of the country at the time of the meeting and questioned the timing of it. She countered criticism noting Rose quit her job immediately after the February Parkland shooting. “To me that’s more egregious, that our head of middle schools just quits because she couldn’t take it any more,” Brown said.

The election for School Board District 4 is scheduled for Aug. 28.

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