In the era of COVID, a passive School Board is dangerous

I want you to watch this video — and note Board Member Kay Fields’ reaction to my point about the elected Polk School Board’s role and its relationship to unelected staff and the public. This viscerally demonstrates a longstanding dynamic of disagreement among some elected board members about the nature of our roles. It’s extremely important for the public to…

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I won’t fire any educator or cut any pay or steal any pension. Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell will have to do that.

At some point in the near future, the superintendent will present your Polk School Board with a budget — or a budget amendment — that reflects a massive reduction in funding from the local, state and federal levels. Your local School Board has no power to affect revenue, not even locally-generated revenue. We only have the power to dole out…

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Our educators have built a humanity wall. Celebrate it. Keep it standing strong.

It seems like years ago that I put out a Facebook call asking if any construction businesses had N95 masks to donate to local health care providers. But it was March 19th. Within a couple hours of posting, a teacher named William Beasley at the Ridge Community High School construction academy told me that his academy had 80 masks on…

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My opponent would like to opt out of thinking ahead; but that makes for bad governing

A Facebook ad from my opponent showed up in my feed today. It said this: Rather than waving the solo banner of irrational knee jerk reactions, it’s time to focus the conversation on now. Now is the time! Not next year. Since my campaign announcement, I’ve been asked what I want to accomplish in my first 100 days of office….

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The DeSantis vs. Corcoran/Jeb K-12 civil war, part 1: real schools and serious governing are the key to “reopening the economy,” whatever that means

There’s a paradoxical and paralyzing civil war over pandemic education raging between the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. I think they are aware of it; but it’s possible they’re not. These are not the brightest or most self-aware people in the world. This intra-cabinet civil war exerts great weight within the larger “re-open the economy…

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Dear Gov. DeSantis and education leaders: bail out kids, educators, and human connection; not Big Test and JebWorld

Operating schools at all financially in the near-term future presents an equal challenge to deciding when it’s safe to open them. So how districts decide to spend every future dime is a crucial, emergency decision moving forward. That’s especially true in Florida, a state dependent on tourists to help fund our basic services. I am already hearing anecdotes of Polk principals…

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Heroes in the age of the grifters

Dr. Kevin List is among the best that Polk County and the state of Florida has to offer the world: 2011 theater graduate from Harrison School of the Arts/Lakeland High; Lakeland Kiwanis scholarship winner; graduate of Florida State University and FSU Medical School; dear friend of my daughter and honorary Townsend in every way. He’s family. He’s also a doctor…

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The survival of our communities — from hospitals to school systems to family businesses — is a political choice.

This article is aimed primarily at Polk County’s state and local elected officials. If I can ever get the School Board to meet virtually (working on it, I swear), I’m going to ask that we take a formal voting position on a resolution/letter to our U.S. Congressional delegation that looks something like the one that follows. I’m also going to…

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The humanity wall: distance learning, voluntary heroism, and the longstanding American plague

You’ll find something called a “data wall” inside basically every public school in Polk County — and most likely all of Florida and most of America, too. The form I’ve seen most commonly is a large pegboard with colored-coded cards or stickies. Each colored card represents an individual child; and the specific color defines a child entirely by his or…

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We’re all “The Martian” now: problems, assets, and empathy

I love this scene from “The Martian;” and it seems deeply applicable for this moment and coming weeks. We’re all going to have to solve problems, from the household level upward. We’ll solve them more effectively if we support each other and tell each other the truth so we know which assets to apply to which problems. In that spirit,…

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