MANATEE -- A former business owner wants to unseat a Manatee County school board incumbent in the mid-August elections.
School board member Bob Gause will face off against Linda Schaich in the District 4 race that could shift the dynamics of the board.
Gause, a landscape architect who co-owns an engineering, planning and landscape architecture firm, and
who is serving his sixth year on the board, said he wants to continue to see through the recent overhaul of the district's top administrators and the changes it is expected to bring.
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"It'll take five years for the culture change to take effect, and I want to make sure we stay there," Gause said.
During his tenure on the board, Gause said the district has increased its transparency under the leadership of Superintendent Tim McGonegal.
"Overall, I think he's done a good job," Gause said. "He has helped change the direction of the district, helped put people in positions that have proven track records."
The appointment of former Manatee High principal Bob Gagnon to assistant superintendent of curriculum last December resulted in nonrenewed contracts for six of the district's top administrators. The changes came after Manatee ranked 47th among the state's 67 counties last year, among other issues.
"We want to focus on making sure students learn curriculum they need to be learning," Gause said. "Less focus on teaching to the test and more focus on students."
As for the district's tentative $554 million budget, a contentious issue for the board after years of repeated cuts, Gause said he is satisfied with McGonegal's proposals and anticipates more "tweaking" until the final hearing in September.
McGonegal proposed to devote a $2 million surplus to a 1 percent bonus for employees, and by putting back $700,000 that was cut from schools.
"The classroom is the first thing he considered in the budget, and there has been an increase for the classrooms," Gause said. "We want to make sure we put money into instructional personnel and schools."
Schaich, on the other hand, said a larger overhaul is in order.
She said she got involved with the school board because she wanted to "get into something civic." Schaich served on several school board committees in the past years and did not like what she saw.
"While on these committees, there were questions that were asked that went unanswered," she said. "And the only ways to get answers is to get on the board."
As the owner of five equipment centers and two John Deere dealerships in San Diego for 20 years, Schaich said she "sees a lack of fiscal soundness."
"We have a $600 million budget, we need to understand where all that is going," she said. "I don't think we need more money, we just need to redirect it back to the classroom."
An example of an unsound move, she said, was the board's renewal of McGonegal's two-year contract, which would force the board to pay him if they decide to let him go. Not that she wants to see him go.
"The top five people are all new. I think it would be disastrous to change the superintendent," she said.
If elected, Schaich said she wants to work with McGonegal. One of the reasons why the board was often split on decisions and members Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter appear to oppose McGonegal was because they don't get answers to the questions they asked, Schaich said.
"And he (McGonegal) is a very smart man," she said. "If the face of the board changes, he will change with it."
In the most recent quarter, Gause has $27,875 for his campaign coffers, according to public records. Among his donors were Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube, Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle and other developers, architects and contractors. Gause said he has been endorsed by the Gulf Coast Builders Association, former schools superintendent Gene Witt and former state House representative Ron Reagan.
Schaich has raised $16,226 for her campaign, according to public records. Among her contributors are Tea Party Manatee, school board District 4 candidate David Miner and many retirees. Schaich has been endorsed by the Manatee Education Association, the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and Neighbors United for Better Education.