Marinelli Wants Parents' Involvement Welcomed Again

Todays News

School Board candidate Robyn Marinelli spent most of her career in the Sarasota school system. After teaching for five years in Kentucky, she worked in Sarasota as a guidance counselor and later as a district level administrator for the Sarasota County School District.

But after seven years of retirement, she’s not happy with the direction the district has taken. “I’ve seen changes in how parents have not been included in some of the decisions that have been made and are they not listened to,” she said. “Areas of the curriculum have concerned me, and also the lack of transparency.”

Now she’s running for an open District 4 seat on the School Board; incumbent Shirley Brown is not seeking re-election.

While Marinelli holds concerns about spending decisions, her greatest fear is about a potential loss in student performance that could threaten the district’s long-held A grade. “I don’t want to sound negative,” she said. “Our teachers and support staff are absolutely wonderful and they have had to work under some trying conditions.”

That includes several years working under a controversial superintendent Todd Bowden, who stepped down in 2019 following a sexual harassment investigation. And it includes years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Sarasota schools were among a handful in the state who enforced a mask mandate part of this year despite an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibiting such policies . 

“But aside from the pandemic, because every one of the 67 counties in Florida went through the same thing so you cannot totally blame that, the learning experience for kdis was different and very difficult,” she said.

Marinelli also sides with the governor on a controversial new state policy requiring conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation take place with parents. A new law signed by DeSantis has been decried as the “don’t say gay” bill by critics, who suggest the legislation could lead to outing students who do not face supportive environments at home. But Marinelli returns to her days as a guidance counselor. There, she spoke with students about a variety of personal struggles.

“I want students to be able to talk to their teachers and counselors, whoever that safe person in,” she said. “But as a former counselor, I would never want to keep something from a parent. In those situations where a student is in danger, there are systems in place and you can absolutely call on agencies outside of that. I dealt with every situation you could deal with. But I would tell students ‘We have to talk to your parents. I will be there with you but we have got to let your parents know.’”

She has heard from some upset their students navigated issues like gender identity completely separate from their parents. Sometimes the children learned from library books parents didn’t know were on the shelves. That said, Marinelli does stress she doesn’t want any books banned or censored in the schools.

A neophyte to politics, Marinelli has faced controversy. She recently faced criticism when an individual associated with the Proud Boys planned a fundraiser; she ultimately distanced herself and declined to attend.

But she said her main priority if elected to the board will be making a system that allows input regardless of what a parent’s views are and to have a system inclusive for all.

“I’m for all kids of all parents,” she said.

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