Although candidates must reside in one of five districts to be eligible, Monroe County School District Board members are elected by a majority vote by all registered voters in Monroe County.
Sue Woltanski, an Upper Keys education advocate, filed papers to run for the District 5 school board seat currently held by Ron Martin, who is retiring at the end of his term. Martin has endorsed her candidacy.
“I don’t only support Sue, I support her wholeheartedly,” Martin said. “I want to leave my position and the children in good hands. I can think of no better choice.”
Woltanski, a retired pediatrician, has lived fulltime in the Keys since 2008. Her husband is an ER doctor in Homestead and they have two school-age children — one at Treasure Village Montessori and one at Coral Shores High School.
A longtime education advocate, she writes a popular blog called Accountbaloney and is a member of Common Ground, a statewide group of citizens who lobby for education initiatives. She is a product of public education, and her parents and grandmother were teachers. Her main concern, she said, is funding public schools properly.
“I believe in the promise of public education for all. I want to make sure that the kids here get a high-quality public education. I want them to have the kind of schools that I had,” she said. “I am worried about the defunding of public education and the establishment of parallel, competing school systems of education that are also publicly funded. I am also concerned about the privatization of our school system.”
Locally, she said she supports the construction of teacher housing on Sugarloaf Key. She said she wants the housing to be suitable for professionals and hopes the project would be a partnership between the county and the school district. “It’s a little disappointing that it would only be 10 units, but 10 units is better than nothing,” she said.
Woltanski’s concerns are retaining quality teachers, increasing vocational tracks and introducing those earlier as a means to raise graduation rates, and limiting the amount of testing — that includes the practice of evaluating teachers based on class test scores.
“We should use whatever flexibility the state gives us to decrease the impact of test scores on our schools and kids,” she said.
This is the first time Woltanski has sought political office. She is a member of the current Leadership Monroe class, Islamorada Chamber of Commerce, Upper Keys BPW and League of Women Voters. Martin has been a board member since 2010 and his term expires in 2018.
- • •
James Doran has a Doctorate in curriculum and instruction and a master’s in school administration. His teaching and school administration career spans 44 years and after two years of retirement, he’s ready for the next chapter. He has declared his school board candidacy in District 4, currently held by John Dick.
Dick has yet to file for re-election formally, but told the Keys Weekly he will seek another term.
“I’ve been in education my whole life. I have a strong knack for working with children, teaching and giving back to society,” Doran said. “Now that I am retired, the best way I can give back is through my extensive experience, education background and unique perspective.”
Doran, an Islamorada homeowner, started his teaching career in the Keys at what was then called Key Largo Elementary where he taught for six years. (One year he was named Teacher of the Year.) He spent the rest of his career as a teacher or head administrator of schools in seven countries — Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Tokyo, Singapore, Panama and England. He said he also made an effort to coach at least one sport at every post. He said his experience at international and American schools shares a challenge with Keys schools.
“In the Keys, we have a difficult time recruiting and keeping the best teachers,” Doran said. “The most important thing you can have is great teachers; all of the rest of the issues go away when you have the best teachers.”
He also is concerned about the amount of testing, especially of young students. Results from quantitative testing in younger grades reveal “one small dial on a dashboard of indicators on how well a child is doing. We need to get back to the point where we are looking at the total child.”
He acknowledges that the public school structure is, ironically, foreign to him.
“I know that if I am elected, I cannot move around as a head of school and make changes,” Doran said. “But every voice on the side of children is one small step. I can’t sit back and watch, I have to be a part of the solution even if it’s a small part. In the Keys, school ”
Doran is a Florida native and has degrees from Florida State University, University of Miami, and University of Central Florida. He has two grown children, is married, and lives in Islamorada.
The seat in District 4 stretches from the Middle Keys to the Upper Keys. Dick has held that position since 2006.