Willis Holds Major Stake in Schools Future

Todays News


Justin Cody Willis says he has the greatest investment in Sarasota County Schools of anyone running this year—five children enrolled in the district. From a parent point of view, he’s been upset by board disputes and poor decisions around school safety, and he’s ready to bring a change. “We need a voice of reason,” Willis says.

Security perhaps drove Willis to run more than any other issue, and he’s unhappy with the decision by the district to create its own police force instead of continuing to contract with municipal police departments and the sheriff’s office. The North Port resident says that move will also prevent important community connections between students and officers. “Right now kids get used to seeing them in school and get used to dealing with them,” he says. “Think about if you never deal with law enforcement except maybe for a negative experience with a parent.” Moreover, in the event of an active shooting, he wants campus officers to be directly connected with regional law enforcement SWAT teams and other units.

Regarding charter schools, he favors allowing locally run facilities that fill a niche the district doesn’t already serve, but he doesn’t want to see for-profit schools running with district dollars. For example, one of his children previously attended Imagine School at North Port and he pulled her, angry at the lack of accountability for administration, citing an altercation where his child got hurt and administrators did not handle the matter to his satisfaction, but he had no place to appeal the decision.

As for vouchers, he stressed the district can make vouchers work to public schools advantage. All of his children attend district schools, including one on a McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities.  “We saw the benefit to public schools and enrolled our son at Cranberry Elementary,” he says. “Vouchers can play an important role, especially with those in need of an individualized education."

Willis faces three opponents—Pamela Gavette, Jane Goodwin and Richard Linden—in the Aug. 28 election. A runoff, if needed, is scheduled for Nov. 6.

Photo courtesy Willis campaign: Willis poses with his family.

« View The Thursday Jul 5, 2018 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Other Articles in Politics

Aug 1, 2019Jacob Ogles

Clermont Files For City Commission

Jun 13, 2019Jacob Ogles

Cities Revolting Over Redistricting