Dear Editor,

All over the state of Florida, school board candidates are addressing their constituents in a public forum. Unfortunately, in Gulf County, the only two candidates willing to address the public are Barbara Raffield and Bernadette Hackett. Why? Regardless of which district a candidate represents, their vision and decisions as a school board member affect the entire district. Why wouldn’t a candidate want to share their ideas with the public? Perhaps this is a symptom of a bigger issue?

The Gulf County School Board does not currently function as it should. According to Florida statutes, district superintendents recommend and present recommendations to school boards for their approval. The school board has the final decision. At the school board meeting last week, Mrs. Krissy Gentry asked the board to include the custodians in the back to school luncheon that all other employees attend; teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and lunch staff. The board sat quietly as the superintendent accused Mrs. Gentry of using this request as a union tactic. The custodians are not part of the union. They are contractors and not official school employees. As Mrs. Gentry knows, the custodians work as hard as anyone for little pay. Her intent was to include them in the luncheon to show how much they are appreciated. The decision should have been made by the school board. It was not. The superintendent unanimously decided to not include the custodians. This is one small example of how the school board does not function correctly.

Ms. Raffield and Mrs. Hackett are clear on school board responsibilities. They know tthe school board is responsible for setting educational goals for the district and voting on recommendations from the superintendent. They know the school board has the final say. How do I know this? Both of these women have addressed the public during the solution-based Café Conversations where community members come together to discuss the needs of our students and teachers. Neither of the other candidates have attended these meetings.

I have three children in the district and reside in Mexico Beach. Due to my address, I have to vote with my voice. My vote is to stop the insanity of voting for people based on their name, attend or watch the school board meetings online, attend the Café Conversation meetings, read the Florida statutes, and vote people in who are not afraid to reclaim the power that a school board is designed to have.

Susan Kotelman

Mexico Beach