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Florida: Time for the Sarasota County School Board to Operate in the Sunshine

One Sarasota County School Board member has been pushing to have all meetings televised and open to the public. Her name is Bridgette Ziegler.

In November we wrote about Sarasota Herald-Tribune Opinion Editor Tom Tryon’s concern that Ziegler was bringing discord to the Sarasota School Board. We wrote:

Tryon is concerned that  in the local community there is “a palpable sense of hostility, enmity and animus.” Tryon wants to be the “can’t we all just get along” Rodney King of Sarasota, Florida. You know, think alike, be alike, don’t stand out from the crowd for your ideas and ideals. Perhaps Tryon should write a letter to President Obama on his enmity toward Republicans, rather than picking on a working mother who is doing her civic duty [Ziegler].

[ … ]

He wants this school board member [Ziegler] to embrace government secrecy and behind closed door “workshop” meetings in the name of being nice.

Well it appears others agree with Ziegler on operating in the sunshine, especially when it comes to the “closed door workshops” to select a new superintendent.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Shelby Webb recently reported:

The Sarasota County School Board will dip its toe into the search for Superintendent Lori White’s replacement during a monthly work session on Tuesday, but one local nonprofit has already cried foul.

Joe Hembree, president of the Argus Foundation, wrote a letter to the School Board asking that Tuesday’s monthly work session be televised.

He said agenda items referring to the superintendent search and the financial advisory committee are “very significant items of public interest” that should be easily accessible to parents, teachers, students and other stake-holders.

“Any discussions on these items, whether informative in nature or preliminary, are important ones and we feel strongly that the public should be informed and have easy access to view,” Hembree wrote.

Gee, is it not in the best interest for all to see the discussion on choosing a new superintendent? Does this not deserve the sunshine?

Ziegler has been vindicated. Time to give her credit where it is due.

As we wrote in November, “Abandon your principles, says Tryon, and you will be loved. Tryon has one thing right, the 2014 mid-term election is over. But the bad policies of the school board continue… Enmity is a good thing. Marching in lockstep is a bad thing, just as it is in Washington, D.C. and at Sarasota school board meetings. Different ideas must be heard, discussed in a civil manner and then voted on. That is the Constitutional Republican way.”

Can Sarasota School Board candidate Ken Marsh be ‘Trusted’?

Ken Marsh is a life long public school bureaucrat who has worked for two school districts, most recently for 25 years in Sarasota County. The corner stone of his campaign is the slogan “Trusted Education Leader”. But can Ken Marsh be trusted?

Dictionary.com defines trusted as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.”

What if a person repeatedly violates school board policy during their campaign? Can you trust such a person?

marsh at booker middle school

Photo from the Ken Marsh for School Board Facebook page. Photo courtesy of Ken Marsh. For a larger view click on the image.

Let’s look at the facts. Sarasota School District policy 9.40 — Advertising in Schools states:

School facilities shall not be used for advertising or otherwise promoting the interests of any commercial, political, or other non-school agency; or individual organization; nor shall School Board employees or students be employed in such a manner.

Here is what we know about Ken Marsh, those supporting him and his campaign:

  1. Ken Marsh’s Campaign Facebook page shows a photo (upper right) of Marsh sitting on the steps of the Booker Middle School Amphitheater, in violation of SB Policy 9.40.
  2. A Ken Marsh for School Board campaign flyer (below) uses images of five public schools, also in violation of SB Policy 9.40
  3. A Ken Marsh for School Board absentee ballot mailer uses an image of the Marsh photo on school board property in violation of SB Policy 9.40
  4. Ken Marsh and his campaign have benefited from individual’s using the district email system for political purposes in violation of the Sarasota County Schools Information Technology Guidelines and Procedures.
  5. Ken Marsh and his campaign have benefited from individuals using the district email system to endorse him for school board.
  6. Ken Marsh and his campaign have benefited from the District Director of Communications Gary Leatherman receiving, reviewing, editing and returning a Ken Marsh campaign flyer, for which Leatherman was reprimanded by the District Superintendent Lori White.
  7. Ken Marsh and his campaign have benefited from School Board member Shirley Brown’s email inviting Austin Jambor, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley, to a Ken Marsh “reception” she is hosting “on Oct 1 in Prestancia” using the district email system.
  8. Ms. Brown notified the Ken Marsh campaign of a homosexual marriage event hosted by Equality Florida. Brown suggests that Ken Marsh and others from his campaign attend the event.

Is this the kind of behavior that demonstrates Marsh is a man of “integrity”, a man who can be trusted?

To date Ken Marsh has not denounced any of these violations of school board policy. To our knowledge Marsh has not asked any of his supporters or campaign staff to stop violating school board policies.  Marsh should know that each of the above is a violation of multiple School Board policies. He was a director in the school district and, as he points out in his website, is a bureaucrat with “35 years of public education experience.”

Would a man of integrity stay silent? Can you trust a man who sees wrongdoing and takes no action?

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Perhaps Mr. Marsh does not believe in his own campaign’s rhetoric?

Ken Marsh is asking people to call him directly at 941.586.9526. If you would like to call Mr. Marsh perhaps you can ask: Ken, are you aware that your campaign is violating Chapter 9.40 of School Board policy by using images of schools in your political mailers?

KEN MARSH FLYER:

Marsh Mailer 1 (1)

Ken Marsh campaign flyer. For a larger view click on the flyer.

KEN MARSH ABSENTEE BALLOT MAILER

Ken Marsh Mailer

Ken Marsh absentee ballot mailer with photo of Marsh on his campaign Facebook page. For a larger view click on the image.