2 candidates join District 1 Manatee County School Board race

MANATEE -- Two new candidates have entered the race for the Manatee County School Board District 1 seat.

Gina Busciglio Messenger, a 29-year-old educator and a Manatee County native, and Linda Schaich, a 73-year-old community activist who lost the District 1 race to school board member Bob Gause in 2012, both filed their intention to run for the seat with the Supervisor of Elections office on Monday. They join two others in the running for the seat currently held by Gause, who is not planning to seek re-election.

In a press release, Messenger said her focus during the campaign includes emphasizing low-income schools and early childhood education, "ensuring that the maximum amount of money is spent on our students and classrooms by being budget conscious and advocating for teachers, students and families in the Manatee County area."

She has been an educator for six years in Title I, low-income, public schools in Marion County and Orange County. Messenger and her husband, Matt, who works for the school district's television channel, MSTV, bought a home in Parrish last January and welcomed a baby girl in May. Since moving, Messenger has been a stay-at-home mom with her daughter, and says her daughter is a major part of why she is running for the school board.

"I want her to have a really positive experience," Messenger said.

If the district is able to hear the voices of the low-income students and schools, and make changes to improve those schools, it will help the district overall, Messenger said. And with her background, she said she is a good candidate to help make that happen.

"That's always been my passion," she said.

Schaich, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, resides in Terra Ceia and is retired. Schaich is a frequent public speaker and attendee of Manatee County School Board meetings. She is also a frequent letter writer to the Bradenton Herald.

Last week, Schaich spoke before the Manatee County Commission, asking them to go against a school board recommendation on impact fees, calling the recommendation by the school board a "backroom deal" between the board and the developers.

"I can only hope that the county commissioners are not going to perpetuate what appears to be a backroom deal between the school board and the developers," she said, asking the county commissioners to reinstate impact fees fully in April, instead of on a gradual increase, like the one recommended by the school board. By a 5-2 vote, the commissioners approved what the school board recommended.

Schaich lost to Gause in 2012. Gause announced that after 10 years, he could not seek re-election to the District 1 seat, saying he wants to focus on his business and his family.

The District 1 race is one of three school board races up this year. All county residents registered to vote may vote in the nonpartisan school board races. Candidates must reside in the district they are running in.

The District 1 seat covers the northern part of the county, excluding downtown Palmetto, extending to the eastern border. Messenger and Schaich join Xtavia Bailey, co-owner of Exb Inc. and former Florida Regional Director of Amer-I-Can Life Skills, and Edward Viltz, a retired math teacher at Team Success and retired corporate executive, in the race.

The District 5 seat, held by Gov. Rick Scott appointee John Colon, is up for voters to select a permanent candidate to replace first-time board member Mary Cantrell, who died in July. The District 5 seat covers Lakewood Ranch and the eastern part of the county south of State Road 64.

Colon is the only candidate to file for that seat.

The District 3 seat, held by Dave Miner, is also up for election. Miner, a first-time board member and a local attorney, is seeking a second term. He is being challenged by Sadie Montanus, a teacher at Palmetto High School who has worked with the state on policy, and Misty Servia, a planner at an engineering firm and active member of a number of local boards, in that race.

The primary election is in August followed by the general election in November.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.