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Florida: Groupthink on the Sarasota County School Board

school board compositI am always fascinated by how politicians, once elected, don’t do what they promised in order to get elected. Rather they become part of “the system”. They become influenced by bureaucrats, forget they represent their constituents and pass laws, rules, and regulations which harm their very constituents. They in effect become group thinkers.

Groupthink is an oxymoron. You see it is not about thinking, rather it is about the group (collective). Wikipedia has this definition of Groupthink:

A psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

The Sarasota County School Board members, with one exception, suffers from groupthink. Because of this it has resulted in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcomes. One example is the misuse of tax dollars.

YourObserver.com staff in an op-ed stated:

It has been a month and a half, but many of you still will remember the cyclone that whirled about the Sarasota County School Board over its selection of a construction manager for the Suncoast Technical College’s North Port campus.

At the recommendation of Superintendent Lori White, the board voted 4-1 to bypass its selection committee and go with Willis Smith Construction.

The lone “no” vote came from Bridget Ziegler, the rookie board member who was elected last November.

The day after the vote, Ziegler, age 32, posted her rationale and comments on her Facebook page (see box).

Whoa.

At the April 21 School Board meeting, Ziegler’s fellow board members delivered to Ziegler what easily can be called a smackdown, chastising her for seven minutes for speaking out and not following the other members’ board protocol.

Talk about taking Ziegler to the woodshed. “Hey, missy, you need to learn a thing or two before you go spouting off.” That’s the way it comes across.

Among the disturbing comments came from board member Jane Goodwin: “I just hope in the future you’ll … consider that you have a loyalty to this board and … we represent the Sarasota County School Board …”

So what we have on the Sarasota County School Board is one thinker, Bridgette Ziegler, and four followers. The issue is that the Sarasota County School Board selected a vendor whose bid was $4.5 million higher than the lowest qualified vendor. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Shelby Web reported, “The board voted 4-1 to follow Superintendent Lori White’s advice to hire Willis A. Smith instead of A.D. Morgan Corp., which had said it could do the job for about $4.5 million less.”

Does this not appear to be a dysfunctional decision? Aren’t the board members supposed to be good stewards of the people’s property (tax dollars)?

Why do we see politicians at every level become group thinkers? 

Perhaps Frédéric Bastiat’s  who penned the seminal work The Law said it best. He pointed out that the relationship between the rulers and the ruled becomes distorted, and a sense of systemic injustice pervades the culture. Bastiat observed this in horror in his time, and it’s a good description of what happened at the Sarasota County School Board:

The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.

The collective must silence those who think – namely Bridgette Ziegler. However, I do not believe Ms. Ziegler will be silenced.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by Artsy Magazine.

4 replies
  1. warren simonds
    warren simonds says:

    Unfortunately The screed above does not touch on the central issue. It is not about the other School Board members somehow wanting somehow disrespect Ms Ziegler’s opinion. it was about the written policy and the authority of the School Board. The Board has the right to choose whomever they wish to provide services. Whatever. was recommended initially by a committee of subordinates was just that – a recommendation. The School Board has the final decision and they chose to select a proven local contractor over an out-of-town firm that has not completed a single large project successfully for the Sarasota School district. Dr. Swier’s comments seem completely influenced by either personal friendship with Ms Ziegler or political allegiance. The facts do not support his commentary or the message it was intended to convey.

    Reply
    • Susie Q
      Susie Q says:

      Are you crazy??? This school board spends $740 million a year to run 53 schools. This is government spending gone on steroids. Further, since Ms. Zigler is the only one who did not want this contract, your statements is moot. It means nothing.

      Reply
  2. Dr. Rich Swier
    Dr. Rich Swier says:

    It is the duty of public officials to use taxpayer dollars wisely. If the School Board does not wish to follow the recommendations of a committee then why have the committee at all? Why spend the money to keep these advisory committees going?

    Wasting $4.5 million is waste, fraud and abuse of the citizens of Sarasota County.

    Group think is not what people elect politicians to do. Citizens expect politicians to vote in the best interests of the electorate. Wasting money is not in the best interests of the electorate.

    Reply

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