BRADENTON – "I don't think it's a secret right now that our school board is facing the biggest challenges it's faced in close to 20 years in terms of finance and structural changes," said District 4 Manatee school board candidate Frank Brunner while speaking over the phone on Monday. The former school board member, who is running for Karen Carpenter's seat, advised that he wants to bring cohesiveness to what he described as an often-divisive board.
"If you don't meet those challenges, they become problematic, and they take away from the main focus, which should be educating kids."
Brunner also said that what he called a lack of cohesion on the board distracts from discussion about education, adding that he hears "from people over and over again in the community that during board meetings, there's a lot of contention and finger-pointing but not a lot of talking about kids."
A board member for the district from 1996 to 2006, Brunner says that some of the issues that came about during his tenure - including a significant shortfall in the late '90s - has helped prepare him for the seat, should he be elected."I know about leadership and how to build a consensus," he said. Brunner added that while on the board, he embraced a state program called "Best Financial Practices Review," by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.
Brunner also talked about wanting to ensure that the district has a strong handle on the opinions and concerns of its employees.
"We did Employee Climate Surveys while I was on the board, and (we need to go back to doing that) ... we need to let them know that their input and feedback matters, and they may have some ideas on how things can be made more efficient."
Brunner also talked about diversity of opinion, saying "People in Parrish may not neccesarily feel the same as people in West Bradenton."
Calling himself "a product of the Manatee School District," Brunner graduated from Manatee High School in 1985 before attending West Point and receiving a Bachelor's in science in 1989.
After being commissioned as an officer in the infantry, Brunner was a combat infantry platoon leader in the first Gulf War. He is currently the Executive Director of Manatee Crime Stoppers.
Brunner says that his candidacy has the endorsement of former board members Joe Miller, Walter Miller, Harry Kinnan and Larry Simmons. Homesteaded in Palmetto, the candidate recently signed a one-year lease on a one-bedroom apartment in Bradenton in order to apply to run for the seat.
Homesteaded in Palmetto, the candidate recently rented out an apartment in the Bradenton district he is running for in order to register for the election. The same was done by school board District 5 candidate and Pinellas resident Mary Cantrell, who wrote in a Lakewood Ranch residency. Brunner confirmed that on Monday, he had qualified to run as a candidate for the seat and was on the ballot.
Brunner is married to Palmetto City Commissioner Tamara Cornwell; he has a stepdaughter from her, Ashley Daniel, who works within the school district. The couple have twin sons, Josh and Luke.
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