With Barbara Harvey closing out her 16 years on the Manatee County school board and declining a re-election bid, the District 2 post will be won by one of the two first-time candidates for public office, Rodney Jones or Charlie Kennedy.
Jones, a certified grant writer with a project management background, carries a long history of volunteerism in the district. He's currently a member of several key panels, the Citizen's Budget Advisory Committee and the district's Strategic Planning Team.
Kennedy, a social studies teacher at Manatee High School, touts his classroom experience as valuable to the school board.
Jones, a product of Manatee's school system, grew up with education front and center at home; his mother, Minnie Lee Jones, retired after 32 years as a district teacher, and his sister Darlene is an educator in Orlando.
He remains close to the classroom by serving on the school advisory committee at G.D. Rogers Elementary, and he has been a substitute teacher in the district.
Plus, he has worked in or had direct oversight of contracted schools in Manatee, DeSoto and Hardee counties.
With more than 20 years spent working with at-risk children and families in prevention, delinquency, substance abuse and mental health, Jones would bring a unique skill set and perspective to the school board.
He also serves as a youth mentor in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County and Take Stock in Children.
All of this experience only scratches the surface of Jones' deep community involvement and commitment to youth.
His experience at successfully managing multimillion-dollar contracts will come into play as the district continues building sound budgets after years of deficits and mismanagement.
Jones expresses his intention to shift the board's focus back to shaping policy and budget oversight, vowing to stay away from micromanaging the superintendent's responsibilities and calling district staff to task -- as has been occurring too often, he says. This separation of duties is the proper role of the board.
Along those same lines, he wants to update antiquated policies and procedures, some a decade old. The board is currently undertaking this endeavor.
Jones pledges to "provide leadership that will cultivate a culture of excellence, a collaborative spirit and consensus" on the board, noting the panel has many times "lacked the ability to function as a cohesive unit in order to move the district forward in a positive manner."
That, he says, must be accomplished to restore public trust. Continuing efforts to foster transparency, accountability, stewardship and inclusion are a must, too.
Another priority is establishing a districtwide culture of excellence and improving morale -- both of which have suffered in recent years.
A supporter of Superintendent Rick Mills and his administrative team, Jones follows a key strategy the district is focusing on -- that is, using data to drive all processes on the budget and academics.
He is also a realist, noting that none of these goals can be accomplished quickly -- though Americans tend to expect immediate results, he says.
Jones articulates many strong positions, and his broad community, district and business experience make him the best candidate in this contest. For the Manatee County school board District 2 position, the Herald recommends Rodney Jones.
Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by 4 p.m. the next weekday after the endorsement appears in print. Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7047.
View candidate forums
The Herald, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, videotaped candidate forums.
These forums can be viewed on bradenton.com/video. METV is also regularly airing the forums, on Brighthouse channel 614, Verizon FIOS 31 and Comcast 19. For METV airtimes, visit www.metvweb.com.