Jones announces bid to unseat Harvey from Manatee County School Board

Rodney Jones announces bid to unseat Barbara Harvey from Manatee County School Board

eearl@bradenton.comJanuary 2, 2014 


MANATEE -- Rodney Jones, an official at State College of Florida, has filed to run for the Manatee County School Board seat held by Barbara Harvey.

Harvey, who has held the board's District 2 seat since 1998, has herself not yet announced whether she will run for re-election. Harvey said she is still uncertain.

"I do not really know yet whether I will run again," Harvey said. "I will do a formal announcement the last day of (January). I am still in process."

Harvey said a main determining factor would involve her viability as a board member.

"It's about whether I can still be a positive influence on the board as we serve the children of Manatee County," Harvey said.

Jones said Harvey once told his mother he should consider running for the school board.

"That is very true," Harvey said.

Jones, 46, a project coordinator at SCF and former clinical manager at Manatee Glens, is a Manatee County native and a graduate of Manatee High School and the University of South Florida.

Jones' mother is a retired educator in Manatee County who taught at Oneco Elementary more than 20 years.

"I've always had a passion for education that was instilled by my parents," Jones said. "My family members on both sides are educators, and we say it is our family profession."

Jones served on the district strategic planning team and is now on the committee revising the student code of conduct. He is a member and former chairman of the School Advisory Committee at Rogers Garden Elementary and at Horizons Academy. He describes himself as positive and data driven.

Calls to Harvey were not immediately returned.

Jones said he is concerned about district budget issues, its over-arching culture and the amount of change the district has seen in the past year, which he said can prove difficult for any organization.

"That much change creates its own level of instability," Jones said.

Before the finance issues bubbled over with revelations of a $3.4 million deficit in 2012, district performance was already in decline, Jones said.

"Some people describe the culture of the district as toxic," Jones said. "People are afraid and not sure about the future. That happens anytime you have that dynamic going on when there is a lot of change and scandal, or when the district is in crisis mode and

constantly responding to the next thing that comes along. We need a culture where people are motivated and feeling good about kids achieving."

For more than 20 years, Jones worked with students in prevention and delinquency programs, substance abuse and mental health programs, where he said he developed administrative and grant-writing experience.

"It's nothing on the scale of this, but the same practices and principles apply," Jones said. "I've seen how environmental stressers bleed into the school experience. All kids have an opportunity to chase their dreams now, whether they choose a college path our career ready path. We have to give them the tools. The ones who ultimately suffer if things go wrong are the kids."

The school board primary is Aug. 26 and a runoff, if needed, is Nov. 4.

Jones is the second candidate to file for the school board election.

Carlton "Les" Nichols is challenging board member Julie Aranibar in District 5. Aranibar, first elected in 2010, has not filed for re-election, according to the county elections office.

Board member Karen Carpenter, who represents District 4, is also up for re-election. Neither she nor any challengers have filed.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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