Sarasota Superintendent Finalists Answer Community Questions

Todays News

Candidates for Sarasota County Schools superintendent came to town Wednesday for a meeting with the School Board and to answer questions from the community. With board members seated yards apart with plastic sheets diving them, candidates endured an unusual setting for a job interview into a public town hall with questions posted online instead of in person. The finalists for the job fielded questions on fiscal management, community involvement and how to repair trust with the board and public.

Dr. Brennan Asplen committed in the town hall to be accessible to parents and community leaders. “I definitely need to meet the School Board members one on one and get to know them,” he said. “I also need to make sure i am informing them of everything going on in the school district, and need to keep them out in front of any issues that may occur.”

Dr. Peter Licata said he took on his current after an abrupt schism with a prior superintendent, much like Sarasota is about to experience. Outreach to the community is key to restoring trust, he said. “I allowed them to be a voice in serious decision-making like selecting principals,” he said. “What you want is safeguards to make sure trust isn’t lost. It is so hard to build trust and so easy to lose it.”

Marie Izquierdo told Board members who experience in life and in the nation’s largest school district prepared her to handle the diverse population in local schools. “We changed the narrative on what an urban school district is able to achieve,” she said, noting the district’s 89% graduation rate. Making parents feel welcome in schools with bilingual front offices and safe environments helped make a difference.

Dr. Gonzalo LaCava said communication also ensures financial support of the schools by the community, an issue that came up discussing tax referenda. “One of the things about referendums and bonds is they are an extension of trust between the school district and the board,” he said. “We need to make sure we are fiscally responsible to the community.”

And Keith Oswald stressed the importance of having systems in place to address crises before they take place. “There is a lot of prevention work, but we do know things do happen,” he said. Staying in front of issues will be key to any conflicts that arise with personnel, and that guarantees the district takes responsible steps for dealing with matters.

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