Edwards, Babicz, Wood Contrast Visions for Sarasota Schools

Todays News

Photos courtes campaigns: Tom Edwards, Thomas Babicz, Greg Wood.

The Sarasota County School board experiences stream of controversies in recent years. Every District 3 School Board candidate, including the incumbent, believes voters can send a message that must stop.

School Board member Tom Edwards faces two challengers, long-time IT Management executive Thomas Babicz and former Sarasota Scullers executive director Greg Wood.

Edwards the last two years has been a lone member of a political minority, and said board meetings have been as trying for him as the public.

“I love being a School Board member. I hate the politics of this board from the last two years,” Edwards said. “If you think about it, from the time we terminated the superintendent until the vote on Bridger Ziegler’s Title IX resolution, it’s been 100% politics.”

He was a dissenting vote on firing former Superintendent Brennan Asplen (though he’s pleased with current Superintendent Terrance Connor) and on the district refusing federal mandates to provide student protections for transgender students. But he also stressed his work outside board meetings, including working with Sarasota Memorial Hospital to ensure continuation of a health care academy at Venice High after ShorePoint Health’s departure, and a partnership with the Gulf Coast Builder’s Exchange to establish trade academies in Sarasota schools.

Notably, both Babicz and Wood also favor providing education paths in school for students heading directly into the workforce.

Wood has coached students for decades and delivered lectures at Texas A&M University and leadership training at Fortune 500 companies. He supported much of the conservative School Board majority’s policies, including the recent Title IX stance he believes will be upheld in courts.

A father to three girls, two of them elementary age, he said quality schools are part of why he moved his family to Sarasota. But he’s concerned about political issues seeping into the classroom.

“We have been in Sarasota County schools, and we are supportive of public schools. I support school choice, and we had an experience that made us choose another,” Wood said. “We had to make the decision for our family. But one of my goals in running is to put our kids back in the school system.”

Babicz also strongly supports the recent Title IX resolution from the district, but said he’s upset how both political sides distract from the board’s core mission. He grew up poor in Soviet-occupied Poland, then fled to West Germany and moved to the U.S., where he climbed from janitor into the IT ranks and achieved his own “American Dream.” Now a grandfather with a grandson soon entering the local schools, he said he wants to strengthen teachers, reduce administrative waste and excise political activism from board meetings.

Reviewing contracts, he was stunned to see school renovations costing $18 million that should have been completed for under $3 million. While he wants to increase teacher pay, he believes all non-faculty costs in the budget could be reduced by 20%.

“We are more than lucky the current superintendent is a gift from heaven. I would give him an A-plus. He already started with education results that are better every month,” Babicz said. “I can also see he’s easy to work with to improve schools. The board is not doing that well. Maybe in the case of education, but in case of our dollars, I would give them maybe a C.”

Edwards holds a money advantage in the race. He has raised more than $162,000. Wood has raised north of $15,000 and Babicz has raised just under $15,000. All Sarasota County voters can vote in the Aug. 20 election. If no one wins a majority, the top two vote-getters advance to the General Election. While office is nonpartisan, the Sarasota County Democratic Party just included Edwards on its list of endorsed candidates. Wood serves on the Republican Party of Sarasota’s audit committee. 

Photos courtes campaigns: Tom Edwards, Thomas Babicz, Greg Wood.

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