Manatee school board member Harry Kinnan builds upon his family's legacy

November 14, 2012 

Another Kinnan era in Manatee County education comes to a close in a few days with Harry Kinnan's retirement from the school board. First elected in 1996, his final day will arrive with next Monday's formal reorganization of the board.

Finishing his fifth term as chairman of the board, Kinnan endured a turbulent year fraught with bitter divisions over district spending and priorities followed by a financial crisis and the superintendent's abrupt resignation. Yet Kinnan remained optimistic, always striving for consensus and civility.

Appropriately, this past Monday's board meeting celebrated Kinnan's tenure with praise for all his efforts toward the education of Manatee students, from his 26 years as an educator and basketball coach at Manatee Community College to his lobbying in Washington, D.C. in support of education issues.

Upon announcing his pending retirement last March, Kinnan performed another public service by giving candidates many months to mount campaigns for his District 2 seat -- a valuable time span for the community.

The Kinnan family legacy on education continues to be written. The first chapter was composed by its matriarch, the late Marjorie G. Kinnan, Manatee County's Citizen of the Year in 1999. A math teacher and guidance counselor, she also served 16 years on the school board.

She also founded the Manatee Education Foundation in 1988 to ensure classrooms would receive additional resources. The school board honored her dedication to education by naming Kinnan Elementary School after her in 1998.

Harry's wife, Sue, and his sister, Anne, also taught in Manatee schools for years.

Kinnan's coaching prowess earned him a place in the Florida Community College Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.

His legendary brother, Joe Kinnan, won election to the Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1992. He remains a fixture at Manatee High School with his national powerhouse football team and defending state champions. The undefeated Hurricanes enter the playoffs this Friday with hopes of another state trophy and a mythical national title.

At the time of Harry Kinnan's retirement announcement, longtime Manatee educator and former superintendent Dan Nolan aptly hailed Kinnan for his "easy way of dealing with the public." We've appreciated that respectful and humble demeanor, too.

Before the final gavel of his career Monday, Kinnan made two strong points, one about the future of the board and the other about his tenure:

"It's important for the board to show unity because it inspires confidence and trust from the community," he said, a nod to the challenge ahead as the panel deals with a critical public and tough issues.

"There has never been a day that I haven't been thankful and glad that I am on the school board." Even in tough times -- and there have been many over the past few years -- Kinnan did not despair, a reflection of his positive character.

Cheers to Harry Kinnan for his decades of dedication to education. And a happy retirement, too.