Singleton Wants Greater School Board Collaboration

Todays News

Dawnyelle Singleton got in on the ground level at Visible Men Academy and helped establish programs at the Manatee County charter school. Now she hopes to improve the educational opportunities available in her home county as a member of the Sarasota County School Board.

The Sarasota High School graduate and experienced educator qualified last week to challenge incumbent School Board member Bridget Ziegler for her District 1 seat. Upset about discord ay School Board meetings in recent years, she wants the district to refocus its energies.

“If the board cannot get along to the point where they can conduct business, that is an issue to me,” she said. “My goal is to collaborate with fellow School Board members, to advance student outcomes for our children, teachers and school communities. Getting along with the board is my first priority. We won’t always agree on everything, but it’s important the School Board has a united front, and that the board is presented to the community as working together.”

Singleton has been a substitute art teacher in Sarasota schools, but leaned heavily on her years working with VMA co-founder Neil Phillips on programming for an all-boys charter school largely serving a minority population. Her work included finding speakers and mentors to work with the academy.

“I would identify male members of community, often Black and Brown men who were doing good things and had interesting careers, who would talk to the boys,” she said. “These male mentors would come and talk to them about careers, answer questions but also have enrichment for the education component in the day as well.”

Of note, the school has been graded by the state ranging from A to F since its opening. Phillips resigned from the academy last year.

Singleton pushed back somewhat on criticism from the Republican Party of Sarasita tying Democratic candidates in local school board races to critical race theory and gender controversy, both issues being tackled by Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Governor’s race this year. DeSantis has endorsed Ziegler.

Singleton, who would be the first Black person elected to the Sarasota School Board, felt raising issues of critical race theory was injecting a nongermane topic. “As we all know, critical race theory has never been taught in the district,” she said. “Now it has been outlawed and is a non-issue. Frankly, it is a dog whistle for racism and we need to elevate the conversation.”

Discussing matters like school choice, Singleton notably takes no issue with the use of vouchers or with having public charter schools.

“Most people will attend a public school. When I was growing up, we didn’t have options. Your district school was a good school and that’s where you went to,” she said. “Now parents do have more choices, but I think all children, no matter the ZIP code they grew up in, should have access to great education… Vouchers give parents a choice, and I am all for that because parents are the experts on their children’s lives.”

And she doesn’t embrace all parts of a “parents’ rights” movement dominating headlines in many school races in Florida this year. She voiced skepticism at a parental rights bill dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill by critics. She said that law and recent others only address rights parents already had but distract with other topics.

 

 

 

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