City/town: Winter Garden
Family: Married to wife, Darlene, for 24 years; three children
Education: Graduate of University of Florida and University of South Florida
Qualifications: Credentialed college professor and classroom teacher, veteran U.S. Naval officer and commissioned public health service officer
Why do you want you to represent District 4 on the OCPS School Board?
I believe leadership and experience matter. I have held senior leadership positions in the health care field in both private and public service. I believe that absolutely everything the School Board does should be an investment. I believe investment should be laser-focused on giving our students and staff the very best opportunities for success in a safe and caring environment.
Why are you the best candidate?
I am the most qualified and best candidate based on my background. I am both a veteran U.S. Naval officer and commissioned public health service officer. I have served as a rapid responder to multiple crisis situations globally — for instance, responding to Ebola in sub-Saharan Africa, anthrax in the Middle East, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the USS Cole bombing in Yemen, etc. All of my global experiences and education which has afforded me with the necessary skills to relate to the vital decisions the Orange County School Board is currently addressing. (I am) the only candidate in this race that can state the following:
(I have) three children currently enrolled in Orange County Public Schools; (I have) been married for 24 years to a current veteran OCPS teacher; (I am) a credentialed college educator (and have) taught in the classroom and mentored students; (I am) the only public health expert and medical service officer in this race; (I am) the only candidate that has felt the pain of writing a letter to the parents of a deceased child or handled the remains before burial.
What would be your priorities, if elected?
No. 1: Provide a safe and secure environment for our students and staff while also providing them the necessary resources to be successful.
No. 2: Resolve school overcrowding and lobbying for “right-sized” campuses to handle the influx of students.
No. 3: Reward, attract and retain highly qualified, high-performing teachers (while) at the same time offering empathy and respect to all teachers who at times are bullied or treated poorly.
No. 4: Fiscal responsibility. I currently monitor up to $12 billion in federal grant funds. I am a strong proponent of transparency. There cannot be trust without transparency, and that is what I will provide the voters of Orange County.
How do you balance the varying needs of parents and students, and teachers' concerns regarding COVID-19 and reopening schools?
I am the only candidate in this race who is a parent of currently enrolled students. I am married to an OCPS classroom teacher. I am the only candidate who is facing the same crushing decisions that other parents, teachers and spouses of OCPS employees are trying to address.
What has to happen for you to feel comfortable with reopening schools for face-to-face instruction?
To feel comfortable with face-to-face instruction? I would need to know that there are defined protocols in place to handle. There are so many questions that individuals with no teaching background are asking. For instance:
- Students or staff that refuse to wear a mask.
- (Making sure) the needed amount of PPE and resources for sanitizing a classroom are available and that there is a set regiment in place for how classrooms will be cleaned daily and in between classes (as needed)
- What is the protocol for quarantining students or staff, and how are students with disabilities going to be properly accommodated?
- How are daily disruptions going to be handled on both virtual and face-to-face incidents?
- No one has talked about the Title 1 schools. How are those children with special needs going to be provided for?
Some teachers say Gov. Ron DeSantis' recent $500 million bill to raise teachers' salaries favors new teachers rather than rewards veteran educators. What is your position regarding this bill and its implementation? How would you change it?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T! We see that many of the senior educators have dedicated a deal of their adult life caring for our children and spending countless hours and personal funds making sure students have the opportunity for success in and out of the school environment. Because they are at the top end of the pay scale does not mean they should be punished for the love and dedication to teaching. If it were any one of a non-teaching professional and a similar situation occurred, there is a likelihood that these individuals would pursue another occupation. Senior teachers are one of our most valuable assets. Pay teachers what they are really worth by reviewing the budget and getting rid of “quid quo pro” spending to “collaborative partners.”
What are the education challenges unique to West Orange County, and how would you address those as a member of the School Board?
The education challenges are not unique for District 4. We find that often the sitting board members’ focus is not on the benefit or outcome of the student but enhancing business collaborations and partnerships. Students, educators and families deserve better than a sitting board member focused on the business aspect. We are facing a critical time, and “on-the-job training” pales in the face of a distinguished veteran military officer and public-health expert. I believe that absolutely everything the School Board does should be an investment. I believe that investment should be laser-focused on giving our students and staff the very best opportunities for success in a safe environment.