Fighting “for” is harder than fighting “against.” That’s why we do it; and that’s why we’re winning. Join us.

Fighting “for” is harder than fighting “against.” That’s why we do it; and that’s why we’re winning. Join us.

As we enter the in-person early voting phase of the campaign, I want to take a second to declare the obvious: we’re winning. Every indicator I see suggests it. But it really boils down to this: our movement has thousands of people excited to vote for me — and what we’re trying to accomplish in education and citizenship. The other side does not. We have a record and vision and voice to be proud of. We have an unmatched record of success to run on. Here is that record at the highest level; but go to my website and take in the full details. No elected official in Polk County can match it. Educator pay: Led the School Board to commit $32 million to teacher/staff pay over four years. Avoided layoffs, provided small raises, and fixed the district health care plan, which was broken before Billy was elected. Champion for teachers: Fought back publicly when state government threatened to fire 1,600 teachers for attending a rally. The state backed down. Reduced local testing: Fights every day to create a Polk Schools experience that sees every child as a person, not a test score. Real oversight of $1.7 Billion district: Changed School Board’s longstanding culture of passiveness. Held non-elected leadership publicly accountable for performance and behavior. Held legislators publicly accountable for their complete failure to support and fund public schools. Unprecedented transparency: Forced the School Board to release video of all board meetings. Served as the public’s journalist on the Board and will continue to. Set a new standard of openness and responsiveness to the public, parents, and the media. Billy never ducks a call or a hard problem. Behavioral support: Pushed hard for a newly implemented behavioral support plan for kids, teachers, and staff. ESE reform: Prioritized humanity and services – not box-checking compliance — for Exceptional Student Education (ESE). Anti-segregation: Worked to reduce segregation in all forms. Pushed magnet school reforms. Fought bad charters; collaborated with good charters. Our movement is voting for and advocating for that record and vision. That record is so meaningful to real people that more than 70 have taken the time to describe how I’ve impacted their lives for the better with the work I do as a School Board member. See those testimonials at this link: they are powerful witness to the reality of what we’ve accomplished for real people. The campaign of hard things...

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In-person early voting is upon us — here’s where and how to do it

In-person early voting is upon us — here’s where and how to do it

In-person early voting begins Monday, August 3rd and runs through August 15th. The hours are 10 am to 6pm.  Here is an interactive map of the early voting locations. You can vote at any of them. Here is the advisory from the Supervisor of Elections about what you need to vote: Any voter, registered in Polk County, may stop in at any one of our locations to vote in person prior to Election Day.  Please note:  To eliminate delays, please bring photo and signature identification (example: Driver’s license, Florida ID, Military ID, Student ID, US Passport) when you vote early.  According to Florida Law, if you are unable to provide photo and signature ID you will be issued a provisional ballot. Here are the locations by name and exact address, if you need that. Bartow: Polk Street Community Center: 1255 Polk St Davenport: Polk County Sheriffs NE District Office, 1100 Dunson Rd Haines City: Haines City Library, 111 N 6th St Lakeland: Polk County Government Center, 930 E Parker St Lakeland: Simpson Park Community Center, 1725 Martin L King Jr Ave Lake Wales: James P. Austin Community Center, 315 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd N Mulberry: Mulberry Civic Center, 901 NE 5th St Poinciana: Poinciana Community Center, 395 Marigold Ave Winter Haven: Gill Jones NE Polk County Government Center, 3425 Lake Alfred Rd For more information contact the Early Voting Department at 863-534-5888....

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Countries that opened schools successfully used staggered starts. And they had much lower virus levels.

Countries that opened schools successfully used staggered starts. And they had much lower virus levels.

I appreciate all the feedback, pro and con, that I’ve received for my point-of-view on a staggered re-opening model. More of it is pro, at this point; but there is some con, too. I do think there is some misunderstanding on one element: I don’t want to require anyone to do e-learning. I do want to require a slow, staggered start to in-person learning — so that it has chance of working. That’s what other countries have done. I’m not in charge; but as far as I’m concerned, you shouldn’t have to start on e-learning if you don’t want. I want to make it available to you; but if I were in charge, you wouldn’t have to start anything on any set date. If I were in charge, all stupid and inflexible state requirements from seat time to testing to school grades would have been killed long ago. However, I am not in charge. Elected boards appear to be third on the ranking behind the governor and superintendents. But I do intend to go on the record, with a formal vote, about the disaster in the making that comes from dumping tens of thousands of kids on terrified school staff on Aug. 24 with no meaningful safety measures in place or ability to practice new ways of interacting with kids at scale. The promise I have always made to the public is to be honest. My entire existence as a politician is an experiment in whether you can tell people the truth and survive. I’m not going to start lying now at the ultimate moment of truth. Principles and facts concerning reopening These are my personal principles for addressing school reopening. You will notice that none of them has anything to with politics. They are moral and operational principles. I don’t want to kill anyone or cause anyone long-term health harm. I don’t want to coerce anyone, whether that be parent or employee. In-person school communities are extraordinarily important. They are the heart of the entire reason I decided to run for School Board in the first place. E-learning is a poor substitute. COVID education is never going to be “good,” in any form. I want in-person learning to actually succeed, operationally, and not quickly collapse into a massive mess that dooms all in-person learning for the whole year or even beyond. I don’t care at all about the specific...

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The path to sustainable in-person schooling runs through slow, careful build up — not a Big Bang

The path to sustainable in-person schooling runs through slow, careful build up — not a Big Bang

Part 1 of this is linked here and below: “The Townsend Position: Start with e-learning; and use the first quarter to carefully, slowly provide in-person services to the neediest kids” This is a follow-up, aimed largely at parents who want in-person schooling to be a realistic option this year, as I do. —————————————————————- The surest way to kill the possibilities of meaningful in-person schooling for anybody in the coming 2020-21 school year is to try a mass re-opening on August 24 — or any set date. If you think this through at all, that reality becomes obvious. A very careful, 9-week start period is much more reasonable, if still difficult. The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Inc. put the issue very succinctly in its recent letter to Gov. DeSantis warning him of the dangers of physical reopening. In addition to the human danger, mass opening amid mass virus poses a mortal threat to in-person schooling of any kind in the near future. Currently, viral infection rates in Florida are extremely high, with a rolling average of 14.2% of tests positive for new infections over the past two weeks. Public health experts and infectious disease physicians almost universally recommend that children not go to schools until the positive test rate is 3-5% over a rolling two week average. If children go to school with such high infection rates, schools will be forced to close very quickly after opening, and many children and families will likely become ill with SARS- CoV-2. In other parts of the world where schools have successfully opened the infection rates from SARS-CoV-2 were much lower than here in Florida. Now let’s try to make this a little less abstract. Walk through an August 24 “Big Bang” opening with me if you’re eager, like I am, to provide meaningful in-person schooling this year. A “Big Bang” thought experiment For the sake of argument, let’s say that 50,000 kids show up to brick and mortar schools all at once on August 24. That’s a little less than half of Polk’s 105,000 students. Forget even talking about busing — a rolling petri dish of logistical impossibility — for a moment. Let’s just say parents manage to get these 50,000 kids to the campuses all at once for a “Big Bang” resumption of school. Imagine that scene. Imagine the staff trying to execute safety “plans” or “guidelines” at...

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The Townsend position: offer e-learning to everyone; stagger in-person start to carefully, slowly provide in-person services to the neediest kids

The Townsend position: offer e-learning to everyone; stagger in-person start to carefully, slowly provide in-person services to the neediest kids

Polk County schools should not attempt a mass re-enrollment of physical schools on Aug. 24. Instead, the district should start in e-learning mode for the first nine weeks. And we should use that 9-week period to gradually enroll specific high-need groups of children as staffing and demand allows. We should use the first nine weeks period to responsibly test the viability and effectiveness of safety measures at small scale. The general groups I have in mind to prioritize for gradual enrollment are: ESE children with highly special needs that require face-to-face interaction; emergent readers struggling with early literacy – the children who would have taken part in our summer program that COVID canceled; children of teachers/staff, who need child care in order to be able to teach. And we should ignore all stupid state rules about “seat time” and number of school days, which do nothing but put bureaucratic shackles on a COVID response that must be creative, human-centered, and flexible. Let the state shut down our schooling, if it dares. This is all political posturing anyway. It has nothing, at all, to do with the well-being of your kids or loved ones. The Florida Model of education is completely incompatible with a COVID model of education. More on that to come; but I want my position known on restarting school known well in advance of Tuesday’s meeting. I am open to discussing the terms and pace of physical re-enrollment; but I will not vote to permit a mass re-enrollment on Aug. 24. And I plan to force a School Board vote on this Tuesday. I want to be on record so I can show my grandkids how I behaved one day, when faced with the irresponsibility of power and with forcing grotesque choices on our fellow citizens and employees. If this position costs me an election; or our incompetent and feckless state government feels the need to remove me from office, fine. I’ve never been more comfortable with the morality of a decision.  However, if you listened closely to the governor’s insipid little speech a couple days ago, what I’m proposing is actually completely compatible with what he is asking for. There is no need to over-comply for the sake of over-compliance. No confidence the state or district will effectively mitigate the risk of an August 24 mass re-opening. Preliminary data from Polk and elsewhere suggest that 30...

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We are voting for Billy. Let us tell you why.

We are voting for Billy. Let us tell you why.

Teachers, parents, paras, students, grandparents, and business owners support Billy. Hear from them in their own words. Shaundra Ellis provided a video. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO WATCH. As an educator, I appreciate it when someone recognizes the hard work and dedication teachers show every day. Billy Townsend partnered with PEA to lobby for raises in a year everyone else said no. As a parent, I appreciate someone advocating for my child as more than just a test score. Santia Garcia, Polk County Hispanic Education Leader in 2017 I support the re-election of Billy Townsend because he really cares about the wellbeing of special needs children!!! I asked Billy for a yard sign to show my support. We have 2 autistic boys and have a sign on the door asking people not to ring or knock because it can really upset them. He only strengthened my faith in him when I received a text message saying that he had stopped by but didn’t want to ring or knock because of the sign on the door! THAT is the sign of someone who cares about the kids!!!!!! This is why we must Re-elect Billy Townsend! Cheryl Reed Proud Special needs mom and Vice President PTO at Victory Ridge Academy. Billy Townsend realizes that decisions for what’s best for Polk County Schools includes the students, families, educators and staff. Good systems have members who are motivated, satisfied and believe their views and opinions count. Kaila Paige-Culmer, Counselor, Polk County Schools Four years ago we voted for Billy Townsend because we knew he wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. He takes the time to do the research and dig deep, instead of just voting yes and hoping for the best. Billy Townsend asks the questions to make sure we know where our tax money is spent. Vote to re-elect Billy Townsend on August 18. Monica and Brad Fales Seth McGee provided a video. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO WATCH. Thank you Billy for putting Students First. We appreciate your passion and support for ALL students.Thank you for increasing collaboration and being an involved community member. You have always been a voice for parents, students and teachers. On August 18th, I know who to vote for! Tosha Littles Polk County Public School Parent As a newly retired Polk County teacher, I am proud to say that I support Billy Townsend. In my more than...

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