What matters most in our schools? “Children” is the likely response but that is not the case in Manatee District Schools. The honest answer is “district scores.” A quick look at issues unequivocally ranks this No. 1 as district leadership topics.
What about great teachers? You would imagine this as a no-brainer. If wages impact value, salary increases for teachers, originally claimed to be 10 percent, are actually significantly less. A longer work day has brought a 3.3 percent bargained salary increase and the referendum has allocated an additional $4,000 supplement, but this is a non-bargained “perk.” Conversely, several top district leaders received an unadvertised 10 percent raise in September from Superintendent Cynthia Saunders without board notification.
So, who are the district’s biggest benefactors? Beside the aforementioned administrators, Ms. Saunders’ salary has nearly doubled since her arrival five years ago. Consider that she has been appointed to every position since being hired as secondary education director. She has neither applied nor been interviewed for subsequent positions held. Also note that Ms. Saunders holds a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership which is considered to be an entry level requirement for all administration posts.
Interestingly, Ms. Saunders still does not own a home in Manatee County. She homesteads in Marion County, contributing to their tax base. This begs the question, what is her commitment to us? Most district employees purchase homes locally, have children in our schools and are active in our community. We have great educators who are exceptionally qualified for leadership positions but have consistently been overlooked because Ms. Saunders simply DOES NOT know them.
Then what DOES matter? Certainly not loyalty, buy-in, skillset or ethics. Instead, party politics, deep pockets and hunger for power top this list.
We must remain vigilant and hold our school board accountable for our children’s education.