Two are seeking the District 4 seat on the Monroe County School Board and the Aug. 28 primary election will decide the race. Bobby Highsmith was unopposed and Sue Woltanski faces no challenges after Ron Martin stepped down after eight years of service. The new board takes the dais in mid-November.

Questions:

  1. The Monroe County School Board recently unveiled its plan to address mental health in Keys Schools, as mandated by the state legislature’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. It calls for some additional curriculum, and the hire of two more social workers for a total of four, and three more life skills counselors for a total of five for the entire district serving 8,000 students. Do you think this is adequate?
  2. The Monroe County School Board recently approved a one-year trial of a drug-testing program for student athletes. After the year is up, how will you measure the success or failure of the trial program? Will it be an informal or documented measure?
  3. The school district is reportedly in the process of changing land regulations in order to build 10 workforce units on land adjacent to the Sugarloaf School. The school board has made several other attempts to address teacher housing shortages, including the purchase of Marathon Manor more than a decade ago that is now being developed into athletic fields. Do you think that teacher housing is within the purview of the school district?

 

John Dick*, N

First elected to the Monroe County School Board in 2006, John Dick is seeking a fourth term in the District 4 seat. He’s lived in the Keys since 1989 and served in numerous capacities with several organizations from Key Largo to Key West. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native is the former college and career counselor for Marathon High School. His wife, Lourdes, was a teacher at Marathon High, and the couple have two daughters and a son.

  • Top three issues: student safety, student achievement, and employee satisfaction.
  • Campaign website: John Dick on Facebook.
  1. The additional resources are welcomed and will only partially fill the gap. However, we do have to find a qualified person to fill each position which of course is a re-occurring problem in Monroe County. When we have done so to our satisfaction, I would encourage the district to explore every avenue for additional funding to add more highly qualified mental health personnel.
  2. We will measure the outcomes in both documented and informal ways. We will document the amount of random tests and the amount of positive/negative results. We will document the follow-up procedure on those that tested positive. I will receive informal feedback through my various roles and contacts with organizations involved with students and their families such as Boys & Girls Club, Monroe County Coalition, Rotary, and the various veterans’ organizations.
  3. We are currently in the process of changing the land use designation for the property behind Sugarloaf School so that we can put it out for bid to develop workforce housing. We are moving the bus barn and storage from the Trumbo Point property in order to bid out that property for workforce housing. I am agreeable to providing property that we own and is not needed for educational purposes to be used for workforce housing. However, I do not believe the school district should build or operate workforce housing; it needs to be done by a developer.

James Doran, N

Islamorada resident James Doran is seeking election for his first four-year term on the board. The retired teacher began his teaching career at Key Largo Elementary School in 1972 and he has taught worldwide in places like Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and England. Doran has served as director or headmaster at eight schools and has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from University of Central Florida. He’s owned his Islamorada home since 1986. Doran and his wife, Vickie, a retired teacher and school librarian, have one grown daughter and a son.

  • Top three issues: children, safety, and salaries and benefits.
  • Campaign website: drjimdoran.com
  1. I do not think the number is adequate. The number of students that may need their help could quickly overwhelm the new counselors. Early intervention is critically important. Keeping our campuses safe requires open and clear communications amongst students, staff, parents, teachers and school leaders. It is important to proactively address the social and emotional needs of students who are struggling with depression or violent thoughts before those feelings become overwhelming. To limit feelings of depression, disengagement, and hostility toward others, school personnel and students must strive to make all students feel they are cared for and welcomed.
  2. The trial must be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. Questionnaires should be prepared for all stake holders, students, teachers, administrators and parents, and administered during the first week or two of school as a baseline for a follow-up questionnaire to be given at the end of the school year. The thoughts and concerns of administrators and co-curricular sponsors and coaches should also be proactively solicited on an informal basis throughout the year. To be successful everyone must feel they are part of the process, that their views are heard, and that there is a shared vision.
  3. Housing in Monroe County is the major factor in hiring and retaining the best teachers for our children. Although I would prefer the district to not be in the business of providing housing, desperate times sometimes require desperate measures. Teachers are the key to strong schools, no other factor comes even close. The district must be open to all ideas that will facilitate the hiring and retention of the best teachers (and support personnel). However, the devil will be in the details, so the School Board must be very vigilant, careful, and open to the pitfalls going forward.

 

* Incumbent
Editor’s note: Candidate answers appear as submitted.

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