Three incumbents. Three races. Candidates for the School Board of Manatee County have identified which issues they find most important, what they plan to do about school security and list why they are the best candidate for the job.
School board members John Colon and Charlie Kennedy each face one challenger, but Scott Hopes has three other candidates vying for his seat. Here is what they had to say about the issues in their own words.
Q: What is your background (family, job, hobbies)?Alice S. Kaddatz, District 2 (Incumbent) Charles Kennedy, District 2 James F. Daniel Jr., District 4 (Incumbent) Scott L. Hopes, District 4
Richard A. Murphy, District 4
Job: I worked in business management after high school and served on the Hendry county school board elected from 1994-2008. While serving on the school board and being involved in the schools and youth organizations I decided to change careers by going back to school at night and becoming a full time middle school teacher in 2005 for Highlands county schools. In 2008 I became the superintendent of the Hendry county school district serving from 2008-2012 during the great recession and the hardest time for a superintendent, school board and all employees of the school districts of Florida. In January 2013 I was recruited to work in Palm Beach county as an assistant principal at South Tech Academy high school and helped plan and facilitate the opening South Tech Preparatory middle school. While in Palm Beach county I maintained a close relationship with the Palm Beach County School Police to learn more about school security and working with troubled students and families. I came to Manatee county in 2014 and began teaching at King Middle school (6th-8th) in 2014. I taught at Harlee Middle (6th-8th) in 2015 and was a Technology Student Association (TSA) sponsor at both schools. In 2016 I decided to substitute in various schools and focused primarily on elementary to learn more about the daily instruction in K-6 and worked in most of the district elementary schools in all grade levels. Later I chose to work at Tillman Elementary in Palmetto as a paraprofessional to better appreciate their work supporting teachers and students. Later I returned to Palm Beach county to continue my education in educational leadership with Florida Atlantic University working in high poverty schools. In January of 2018 I returned to Manatee county to work and spend time my daughter and support my grandchildren in their school activities.
Hobbies: I like to work with children in schools and I was a Take Stock in Children Scholarship mentor for a student at the Manatee School of the Arts. I have worked with youth organizations that include sports, 4H, FFA, and the Arts. I like to help people and have worked in community civic groups in the past that include Kiwanis, Elks, The Florida Jaycees. Pop Warner Football, Tee-ball, Little League, girls’ softball, United Way and livestock associations. Since I’ve been in Manatee county I have attended Bayside Church and volunteered with my daughter and grandchildren feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. I love music, swing dancing, Nascar, hiking, beaches and do it yourself home projects. I have worked at the Home Depot on University and I was also a co-teacher for women’s and children’s home project classes.Joseph L. Stokes, District 4
Linda and I both graduated from Ball State University. We have both been educators for many years. I recently retired (June, 2016) after 45 years as an educator. I was a teacher for seventeen years, a building administrator (principal of four different schools) for twenty-four years, and an administrator at the district level for four years. My career in Manatee County has been as a principal (King MS), Director of Elementary Schools and assistant principal at Samoset ES. I also have a small rental business most often renting to university students during the last 25 years.
Linda and I love to travel; we are very family oriented, and we enjoy providing experiences for our grandchildren. Linda and I have also been foster parents to thirteen children as a therapeutic home. We did not break apart sibling groups while working with the children, so sometimes we had three or four children at a time. Our faith is very important to us, and we have always been part of a church in our home life. Personal hobbies of mine have been “Ham” radio and fishing when I have the time, and we do spend time in the Blue Ridge mountains in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
If none of the District 4 candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 28 primary, there will be a runoff election on Nov. 6.(Incumbent) John A. Colon, District 5 James T. Golden, District 5 candidate
Q: What are the school district issues you feel are most important?
Alice S. Kaddatz, District 2: Bringing the focus back to our classrooms. Teacher morale needs some work. Providing the support our teachers need to make sure our 3rd graders can read well enough to pass their state test. Securing our schools. Developing a budget to ensure our teachers are paid fairly should the millage not pass again.
(Incumbent) Charles Kennedy, District 2: In the short term, the search for a new Superintendent and resolving the dissension that has dominated the board this year. In the long term, stability and oversight of school finances (referendum funds for our employees and half-cent sales tax for buildings), continuing to move Manatee Schools toward being an A-rated school district, attraction and retention of quality employees in a statewide and nationwide teacher shortage and improving health outcomes for our employees and students.
James F. Daniel Jr., District 4: 1) Infighting amongst the Board 2) Search for Superintendent 3) Failure to operate in an accountable, transparent and trustworthy manner. 4) Lack of up to date strategic plans while experiencing explosive growth 5) Renewal of one mill property tax in four years.
(Incumbent) Scott L. Hopes, District 4: School Safety and Security; Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility; Teacher empowerment to raise academic achievement and student success.
Richard A. Murphy, District 4: To provide funding for uniformed law enforcement, secured buildings, campuses in all district schools and at school events to protect our students and employees. To provide the best educational opportunity for all students to succeed in school and their future job opportunities. To best utilize the additional millage funding based on the language in the referendum approved by the voters with transparency.
To provide the resources for the schools, teachers, and all employees in the school district including all support personnel. In my prior administrative experience, I made it a priority to learn about every department and valued their part in the overall teamwork of the district. I would do the same as a Manatee school board member. To budget effectively to provide the funding for school’s resources, employees wages, benefits, maintenance, transportation, food service and to reduce class size in all subjects including elective courses and new construction for future growth. Transparency, trust and district leadership as a school board that works with the superintendent, employees and community partners to provide the best service for all Manatee county residents.
Joseph L. Stokes, District 4: Not in order of importance, I have been answering this question in the community during the campaign. 1) In my opinion, the function of the Board as a problem solving “agent of the people” has been a growing concern. A lack of civility and respect limit discussions and community members and employees have decried the division, not because people expect agreement on every issue, but because the meetings are minimizing the goal of educating students and supporting employees with drama, ego, and power plays for control. The most recent example was the Board vote on the Citizens’ Committee to oversee the one percent mill recently passed. I recently attended a community forum and the first comment to me was about the incident in the Support Center parking lot several months ago. 2) Teacher recruitment and the concern of having quality teachers in the future is a major issue to me: the state of Florida does not produce enough teachers to fill all classrooms; math, science, and special education are often shortage areas. Keeping our teachers from going to other counties, mentoring programs to strengthen and support beginning teachers, and teacher autonomy are themes of concern to teachers. 3) Our end product- the graduate- is important to our community; not every student is going to the university, some graduates want to go to work. I believe expanded efforts to add vocational options for students have to be a priority for workforce development. Our business community needs to be comfortable with a potential workforce that is a product of our schools 4) I have been discussing in the campaign school safety as an issue, so I’ll deal with school safety in the next question 5) We will need a new superintendent with Dr. Greene going to Duval County. Searching for a superintendent is a priority for the Board and community. I believe the next superintendent should be able to continue supporting and improving academic success in our schools. The next superintendent should be fiscally sound and understand our community has just voted for two tax increases to benefit students and employees and improve facilities. Our community has been concerned to the point of a lack of trust about district budgets and expenditures. The Board and Superintendent have the responsibility to provide information and data to the community to build trust and pinpoint resources to the classrooms. Hopefully, having exemplary character is a given, but I would like to see a superintendent stay long enough to execute a strategic plan up-lifting a developed vision for our parents, employees, community members and most of all students. 6) Finally, it is vital to insure our recent one percent mill increase pays for each and every item promised to the taxpayers, employees and programs for students--as a member of the Board, I’d expect every penny to be accounted for and delivered as a promise kept.
(Incumbent) John A. Colon, District 5: A fiscally strong district is critical for the success of our students. Keeping our new “A” bond rating allows us to borrow money at sharply reduced rates to ensure our students teachers and staff have all the tools they need to succeed. The other issue that I feel is of paramount importance is school security.
James T. Golden, District 5: The first priority is determining whether or not the trajectory that was set by the last superintendent should be continued. That’s priority number one, that we really need to do an analysis of whether or not we need to continue on that path. The second thing that’s important is making sure our children are as safe as possible in the learning environment that we provide for them.
Q: What would be your priority to increase school security?
Alice S. Kaddatz, District 2: I would like to see our schools' access limited. As a school volunteer, I am aware of how easy it to walk on and off most of our schools. We must work on securing the schools as well as putting people in the school that can handle an emergency situation.
(Incumbent) Charles Kennedy, District 2: Continued partnerships with local governments in Manatee County, in addition to advocating with the Legislature to left the burden of their underfunded mandate which left us with only one choice we can afford - school guardians.
James F. Daniel Jr., District 4: 1) Immediate hardening of all elementary schools. Many are wide open and exposed. Many are using Guardians instead of Certified Law Enforcement Officers. 2) Continue dialog with Manatee County and provide any and all financial documentation requested to support need for SRO assistance.
(Incumbent) Scott L. Hopes, District 4: Dr. Hopes has worked relentlessly with Sheriff Rick Wells, Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan, Mayor Wayne Poston, Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler, Mayor Shirley Goover Bryant, Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer and Governor Rick Scott to ensure we are able to provide a safe learning environment for our students, teachers and staff. Under Dr. Hopes’ leadership as School Board Chairman, the School District of Manatee County was the first in the state to add armed police officers and Sheriff’s Deputies in each of our schools following the Parkland shooting. Sheriff Wells and Chairman Hopes have developed a common vision and plan to have armed Sheriff’s Deputy School Resource Officers in our elementary schools by the start of the 2019 school year.
Richard A. Murphy, District 4: I would work with other school board members, the superintendent and district staff, to maximize tax dollars for prioritizing funding to equip each school with uniformed school resource officers. I would work with the county commission and its county administrator, sheriff and city officials to maximize joint funding and Federal Cops Grant opportunities to provide adequate law enforcement in all schools. I would lobby local, state and federal legislators to prioritize funding for school law enforcement and secured school buildings. I would work to budget and acquire additional county, state and federal funding for mental health and student services. I would provide additional training programs for addressing and reporting bullying in schools. I would request school and district administration, school board members and the superintendent to review the student expulsion process and the follow up procedures with parents-guardians, county, state and city agencies to help monitor and report changes in student’s behavior after expulsion. I would advocate prioritizing funding that comes from capital outlay tax dollars to secure all school buildings, departments and campuses to better protect our students and employees.
Joseph L. Stokes, District 4: The most recent legislative session passed laws impacting schools; I am for SRO’s and police officers being used in our schools, just as we have at the Board meetings or City Council and Commissioner meetings. I do not believe the Guardian program is the best solution, and I believe the legislature gave us an unfunded mandate creating conflicts with County Commissioners, City Council members and School Board members. Board members need to lobby the legislature for adequate support for school safety. Coordination with the council and commissioners under Sunshine may be needed to provide the best options for making schools as safe as possible. Possible changes in homestead property tax rates are a concern for the city and county governing bodies. Changes in the law this year require more lockdown drills and adding a Safety Director position for the schools. I certainly expect these mandates to be followed by the schools, so staff and students know procedures. The mental health component for troubled youth has increased monitoring and support, and as a Board member we need to look at the counselors we already have in our schools as personnel who need to spend less time on testing, so they can interact more with students who have problems. I have spoken with most of the principals in District 4, each school has some issue not quite like another school; i.e., it might be fencing, it might be an entry to the school, or in the case of the elementary schools, every principal said we need the SRO. The new Safety Director must source all of these individual needs to add “hardened” access if necessary to our schools. It is unfortunate, but the new reality means access to schools will be monitored and controlled at the expense “the way it used to be.”
(Incumbent) John A. Colon, District 5: We need to completely secure each and every school campus. Fencing with controlled entry and exit points is one way to start. We should also consider solutions that have been effectively utilized in other districts such as metal detectors. We protect our other municipal buildings and institutions with this technology but for some reason are hesitant to utilize it in our most important facilities- the schools attended by our children.
James T. Golden, District 5: Seeking sufficient funding to provide resource officers for all of our schools. I think it would be helpful instead of viewing security as a "one size fits all," if each school given, its unique character, would conduct its own security survey would contribute to a whole analysis. I don’t believe we should have to choose between a Cadillac option and a Ford option. I think that we need to do all that we can to get the best security program for the county.
Q: What qualities would you seek in a new school superintendent?
Alice S. Kaddatz, District 2: I would like to see a superintendent who is more focused on student achievement as well as being good at setting a budget and sticking to it.
(Incumbent) Charles Kennedy, District 2: First and foremost, we need a person with deep knowledge of Florida school law and finance. With the constantly evolving and increasing demands placed on public education by the FL legislature, while at the same they funnel public dollars to unaccountable private and for-profit charters, our new Superintendent must have years of experience in Florida schools.
James F. Daniel Jr., District 4: Demonstrated leadership skills: Protects – Teachers, Students, Staff, and Community; Provides – Resources wisely allocated and expended; Promotes – Demonstrated staff and community development.
(Incumbent) Scott L. Hopes, District 4: Dr. Hopes is proposing to the board a strategic planning process for the District which will begin in July with the purpose of developing and adopting a strategic plan, financial plan and operations plan for the District which will guide us for the next 5 year. With these plans defined, we will be able to identify the qualities, including experience, skill, and style needed in a new superintendent to implement our plans and elevate us to an “A” district and lead us to becoming the number one (1) school district in the state for student success, academic achievement and financial effectiveness.
Richard A. Murphy, District 4: The qualities I would seek include someone who will work diligently with the school board, teachers, district staff, parents, and community stakeholders as a servant leader to provide the best educational opportunities for students and adults. Someone who will provide good stewardship and be transparent with the district revenue and expenditures. Someone who will keep all stakeholders that will include the school board, employees, parents, businesses, media and others informed of the happenings, both good and bad, in the schools and continuously celebrates student success and recognizes those that work hard in the district and community volunteers. Someone who will make every effort to inform all interested parties of the role education and the impact educators play in making America strong intellectually and economically. Someone who understands that communication is a two-way street; listening is just as important as talking. Someone who understands that the criteria for making educational decisions is “what effect will the decision have on the welfare of the students, classrooms and the employees of the district and the community’. I would look for someone who is an instructional leader and is passionate about student success and working with teachers, employees and all stakeholders. I would seek someone who can lead the district and school board through difficult situations with transparency and communicate effectively. I would seek someone who has business management and educational leadership experience.
Joseph L. Stokes, District 4: An excellent communicator with the ability to speak in public would be a great asset in our next superintendent. The next superintendent can create a vision and plan to become an “A” district working with agencies, the business community, governmental entities, and the district. Fiscally responsible-the next superintendent can demonstrate a background revealing financial decisions based on data and experiences in roles and responsibilities they have held in previous positions. Hopefully, we can find an experienced superintendent, although I don’t believe this is a prerequisite, if the sum of their experiences is worthy of such a responsible position. Vetting the next superintendent reveals this person held the confidence of others with ethical and dynamic leadership. No drama. The next superintendent is not ego driven or prone to use their position to make subordinates lose their initiative, creativity, and voice. The next superintendent won’t be using Manatee County as a stepping stone to something or somewhere else; they would be a contributor to the school community for more than two or three years. With that in mind, the next superintendent will work with the Board to help our employees and their representatives never lose sight of our purpose to help our students achieve and reach their potential and graduate from high school with the skills to pursue continued education or enter the work force.
(Incumbent) John A. Colon, District 5: The new superintendent should display effective leadership skills, full communication with the board, and demonstrate high visibility throughout the district on an ongoing basis.
James T. Golden, District 5: I think that the last superintendent did two things that were significantly important in terms of public education in Manatee Xounty. She was able to overcome the poor financial condition. Absolutely committed to improving early childhood education, the early formative years and specifically committed to improving reading. I would want to hear comparatively from every candidate how they would sustain that, how they would keep that. I definitely feel the district is on the right track and we need to follow the superintendent who is interested in following in that same direction.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish if elected/re-elected?
Alice S. Kaddatz, District 2: If elected I hope to bring more of the focus back to our students.
(Incumbent) Charles Kennedy, District 2: Bring unity back to the Board which has been fractured this year. Continue to advocate for our employee health clinic, and school based student health clinics, with a partnership of local physicians and medical professionals. I will also continue to advocate, as I have done during my first term, that we reduce the amount of district-based testing, study moving school start times to benefit adolescent health and education outcomes, study the possibility of full-year school (as a choice, not mandatory) and, finally, to expand and promote our career and technical education opportunities for students and post-grads.
James F. Daniel Jr., District 4: Promote team-building, better communication and working together at the Board level. Establish consensus on District goals and priorities. Promote fiscal discipline and accountability. Develop an organic, ongoing five year budget plan for the District.
(Incumbent) Scott L. Hopes, District 4: Dr. Hopes’ goal is the same as when he first took office on the Board and when he was unanimously elected Board Chairman in November. His HOPE and effort is to be a part of the team to lead the School District of Manatee County to be number one in the state in student success and financial effectiveness!
Richard A. Murphy, District 4: To provide leadership and high-quality service to the district, parents, employees, taxpayers and all community stakeholders. To improve student academic performance, graduation rates, college placement and career internship opportunities with employers. To expand career, business and technical academies within the middle and high school settings to support the needs of students. To support continued expansion of career programs within middle and high schools and Manatee Technical College for high school and adult students. To offer expanded parent programs that can support teachers and students. To work diligently to build a close, positive, communicative, cooperative, positive, productive school board and superintendent partnership as a cohesive team with high-impact governance empowering the strategies that support the entire organization for continued success and financial prudence. As a servant leader I will work with community partners and regional leaders to provide the best path for students to succeed in life and the future job market.
Joseph L. Stokes, District 4: I would like to jump ahead to the year 2022, and I have just finished a four year term on the School Board of Manatee County. A summary has been written concerning the past four years of leading and working with others on the Board, and it reads as follows: “Joe Stokes has just completed his fourth year on the Board, and with other Board members, staffing shortages for bus drivers and teachers have been eliminated. Our salaries are no longer lagging surrounding counties; in fact, counties are now asking how can we acquire and retain teachers like they do in Manatee County? A recent superintendent search included the Manatee County Superintendent, but the Superintendent said, “No, why would I leave Manatee County?” Four years ago a mill was passed for the benefit of the schools, and a new request was asked of the voters and 70 percent of the voters agreed to support a new levy for the school children of Manatee County who have reached the status of an “A” district for the third year in a row.” Parents in a recent survey felt the schools seemed safer and the data supported the finding. It seems Joe Stokes worked on the issues, as he said he would, with the other Board members and the new Superintendent to provide a quality education for the children in Manatee County.
(Incumbent) John A. Colon, District 5: We owe it to our community to be good stewards of public funds, and caretakers of our valuable institutions and infrastructure. Experienced and active board involvement in the funding of our district may only be one aspect of Board duties but it is a critical one that affects our ability to improve our district and ultimately meet our mission.
James T. Golden, District 5: I would hope to foster a sense of unity on the board, that we would become more perceived as a board as opposed to five school board members, each of whom has his or her own agenda. That would be a singular accomplishment. I would like to make more use of the one-on-one board member opportunities so we would have more transparency and more communication that the people would see. I would like to suggest that how young student body leadership be participatory in the process by being present. I’m particularly concerned about our upper-level students in our high schools being present and being visible. I feel the same way about or school leadership the school advisory councils. We need more people more interested in education beyond a particular issue that they’re presenting to the board at any given time.
Q: Why are you the best candidate?
Alice S. Kaddatz, District 2: I am the best candidate because I have been a part of this school district for over 25 years. I have grandchildren in this school district. I have attended board meetings off and on for as many years, and have been to almost all of them for about 7 years now. I support our teachers and how hard they work. I have no affiliation with any groups or organization in the county so I will be a fresh voice on the board
(Incumbent) Charles Kennedy, District 2: I have tried to be a consensus builder and problem solver during my time on the Board. I have been available and responsive to anyone who has reached out to me, across any medium. After four years on the Board, I have knowledge, through personal experience, of the challenges we are facing going forward and I have faced. , and have faced. I believe I have the experience, in the classroom and now Board room, the right temperament, and a track record of being part of a team that has seen our school district begin to recover from financial dark days.
James F. Daniel Jr., District 4: We have to Change the Dynamic. We can’t keep doing things the same old way we have been doing things and expect anything different. Change from the top down is needed to prevent repeated instances of poor fiscal discipline, a continued lack of planning, preparation or foresight, no qualified staff members prepared to be promoted into higher positions and an acute failure to be transparent and accountable. Jim Daniel, CPA brings the financial experience, team building skills and integrity desperately needed on the School Board of Manatee County.
(Incumbent) Scott L. Hopes, District 4: Dr. Hopes is uniquely qualified to be re-elected to his school board position. Under his leadership the bank account are now timely reconciled, the district has the necessary funds to be competitive in hiring the most qualified teachers and staff and become financially stable with an increase in our bond rating from BBB+ to an “A”. Dr. Hopes is the only candidate to have been a Florida public school teacher, Department Chairman, Director of Health Policy for the State of Florida, Public Hospital Administrator (Tampa General) State University Trustee (USF), School Board Member, School Board Chairman, successful businessman, and a product of Florida’s Public Education system. I owe my success to Florida’s Public Education System, High School through Doctorate Degrees, this is my opportunity to give back and to ensure every child in Manatee County has the opportunity for success the Florida’s education system afforded me!
Richard A. Murphy, District 4: The best candidate will be decided by the voters and I believe that my experience will provide additional leadership to the district and support the administration, teachers and all employees. I am an experienced classroom teacher, school, district administrator and have worked in public and charter schools. I am also a former Florida School Board Member of Hendry County with 14 years’ experience and superintendent of Hendry County with 4 years’ experience. I understand the work of the district employees and the resources needed to support their work. I also understand the role, authority and responsibility of the school board. I have worked as a classroom teacher and in high school and middle school administration, so I understand their work and the support they need from the district. My experience as a superintendent will help me provide support, understanding of the duties, and build an effective working relationship with the superintendent and provide leadership on the school board. My overall educational experience will support the teachers, administrators and overall district employees in their work. My prior experience in budgeting, human resources, employee negotiations, maintenance, transportation and construction management processes will support the district employees and organization. My previous experience as Southwest Florida Workforce Board Member, Chamber of Commerce Member, legislative liaison, Alliance of Educational Leader of Southwest Florida will provide additional leadership in the county and region supporting the district strategic plan and mission.
Joseph L. Stokes, District 4: I have a tremendous amount of experience in a variety of roles in two states as an educator: as a teacher, elementary principal, middle school principal, Director at the District supervising elementary administrators along with program responsibilities such as VPK, Extended Day, and the 21st Century Grant. I was a member of the Superintendent’s cabinet. I am not an unknown in the community as a person who can lead, communicate, and solve problems; I can be vetted. My 2017 tax return is attached to my filing documents because I believe in being transparent with money. I have had a small rental business for twenty plus years which means I have been responsible for someones’ housing in a business relationship. I understand resource allocation and the need to watch “the bottom” line. Being a foster parent taught me unforgettable lessons about the plight of many of our children. I have a vested interest in the Manatee County schools; four of my grandchildren are attending, my wife, son-in-law, and myself have been employees of the district This is my community with my family. I have grass roots support; I am not a politician or a person seeking a higher office. Finally, my vision of the school district is global; it’s not an entity by itself; tens of thousands of people are connected to the schools of Manatee County in ways mattering to each individual need. I am not a person who dwells on the negative, I see potential and tremendous opportunities for our county. I don’t like using the pronouns “I, me, my” like I have done so much in this questionnaire, I am much more comfortable with “We, us, and our.”
(Incumbent) John A. Colon, District 5:
James T. Golden, District 5: I may not be the best candidate, surely in all of Manatee County there are people more astute than I am, much more capable of bringing more to the table than I do. I’m just the best candidate between those who qualify. As between he and I, I think I’m the better candidate.