Board Make-up at Stake in Manatee



Most decisions on School Board make-up in the region got decided in the August elections, but Manatee County voters still must decide this Tuesday whether to re-elect School Board member Scott Hopes or install challenger Joe Stokes.

Hopes, appointed to his position by Gov. Rick Scott a year and a half ago, just blasted out emails with an endorsement from state Sen. Bill Galvano, likely Florida Senate president in the coming session. He hopes voters see value in having a trained educator with an administrative background in the post. “I’m the only one on the board that has the business and financial acumen and the experience of governance,” Hopes says. A previous member of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees, Hopes believes his experience will prove invaluable as Manatee seeks a new superintendent of schools.

But Stokes, a former principal and the previous director of elementary education for the Manatee County Schools, feels voters would be well served by removing dysfunction from the School Board. And having someone experienced in an executive positive within the district will be valuable, he says. “I am proud of the work I did for the district,” he says. He sees disagreements among board members in the past year as a distraction from the business of running the schools.

The district, meanwhile, is dealing with costly computer software upgrades that ballooned to $27 million. Superintendent Diana Greene in May announced she was leaving for a job running the Duval County Schools. And voters in August voted out School Board Member John Colon in favor of James Golden.

To Hopes, that means the district needs him to stay at the helm, serving on a board that has two educators and two attorneys. He’s got the experience of serving on a board for an education institution with a multi-billion-dollar budget, and he has the priority of finding an experienced superintendent to run the district and the last four superintendents all went through on-the-job training. Regarding Stokes, Hopes likes to note the district today has just six D schools and no F schools, but when Stokes ran the elementary division, there were 13 D schools and an F school.

Stokes, meanwhile, believes voters would benefit from change. He notes changing grading systems at the state level make it hard to look at metrics on any given year. But he sees naïveté in budget matters with Hopes, who came to office believing the school budget could be cut 10 percent despite earmarked appropriations. Stokes also promises to have the board work professionally as a team, even when they disagree. That will accelerate the district forward in an ever-changing education environment.

Voters will decide on Nov. 6 who holds the seat for the next four years. All Manatee County voters will vote.

Pictured: Joe Stokes, Scott Hopes

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