As a member of the Citizens Superintendent Selection Committee in early 2013, we were charged with seeking out a superintendent who could straighten out the utter financial mess and operational chaos that the previous administration and school board had created. Taxpayer dollars were being terribly misappropriated and misspent, morale was at an all-time low, the administration was so corrupt that the then superintendent resigned unexpectedly.
The newly-elected school board, agreed with the Committee findings that we needed a no nonsense leader that was experienced in addressing situations that existed in our county school system. Rick Mills has done just that. He inherited a real mess and has made great strides in conjunction with the school board, to put the Manatee County School district on the right path.
Mr. Mills could not have accomplished this without the support of the community and the school board. Two of the key members of the Board, Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter, are currently in re-election
contests. We must re-elect them in order to continue with the positive financial restructuring, and educational gains that have been accomplished, and should continue. Julie’s and Karen's records speak for themselves. But, let's take a look at their major opponents.
In my opinion, the two major opponents have demonstrated a lack of integrity. We, as taxpayers and parents in the community, expect integrity in the classroom, within the administration, and certainly
among the Board members. Mr. Brunner and Dr. Cantrell have both demonstrated questionable integrity in their representing themselves as residents of the districts they purportedly represent.
Mr. Brunner does not reside in the district he supposedly will represent; he lives north of the river with his wife Tamara Cornwell a Palmetto City Commissioner, and has just recently rented an apartment in Karen Carpenter's district.
Similarly, Dr. Cantrell lives, and has for many years lived, in St. Petersburg (Pinellas County). Again, she has only recently rented an apartment in Ms. Aranibar's district. Doesn't this bring integrity into question? And if we have board members with questionable integrity, can we expect more from student, staff and administrators?
With regard specifically to Mr. Brunner's candidacy, he wishes to "return to the scene of the crime." It is important to understand that he was on the previous board that was in place when the financial
chaos, functional problems, lack of leadership and outright corruption ran rampant within our school district. Was he part of the problem, or not capable of understanding what was transpiring? Either way, he has proven that we can't possibly afford to have him in any sort of leadership or governance position.
Insofar as Dr. Cantrell is concerned, she, for many years was a positive influence and a key member of the leadership at Manatee Technical Institute. Recently, she has resigned from MTI, and is involved in a complex situation regarding her retirement status, future job opportunities within the school district, etc. The news has been full of stories of various contentious meetings with administrative staff regarding her personal and professional future.
Dr. Cantrell’s running for a board position sounds too much like a personal vendetta and until these issues are resolved there is a conflict of interest. I would think that she best settle her personal situation, and once she has done that, consider running for a board seat in the next election. I’m sure that she can rent an apartment in that district to "qualify" as representing that particular district.
I firmly believe that the Manatee County School District is on the right path. We must re-elect Julie
Aranibar and Karen Carpenter to continue the positive direction of our school district. To change the makeup of the board would change the direction of the levels of improvement we are seeing currently, and would probably result in a return to the prior year’s financial and administrative chaos. We can't afford that as taxpayers, parents, and most impotently for the primary reason – our children's education.
Richard E. Greene
Member, Citizens Advisory Superintendent Selection Committee
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