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Collier County School Board District 5: Crowded race could mean no decision in primary

Naples Daily News logo Naples Daily News 7/8/2022 Liz Freeman and Laura Layden, Naples Daily News
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Five candidates are vying for the District 5 seat on the Collier County School Board, including incumbent Roy Terry who says the district needs to stay on course with progress made in recent years.

Besides Terry, who was appointed in 2010 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican at the time, the other four candidates on the Aug. 23 primary ballot are Jackie Keay, Timothy Moshier, Ana Turino and Arthur Boyer.

School board members are elected in countywide votes for four-year terms to oversee 48,000 students in public schools, including charter schools. Board members must live in their districts.

The primary could be the final election if a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. If not, the two top vote-getters move on to the general election.

District 5 encompasses areas of eastern Collier that include Immokalee, Ave Maria, parts of Golden Gate Estates and Everglades City.

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What are the top issues for Collier schools?

Terry, 80, said the district in recent years has improved graduation rates and reduced achievement gaps between minority students and white students.

The graduation rate a decade ago was 72% and now is 92.7%, he said.

Key issues are ensuring school safety and hiring a new superintendent to replace Kamela Patton, who announced in mid-June she plans to step down in 2023, he said.

“We need to set up a plan and timeline and decide if we are going to hire a national (search) firm or head in another direction,” he said.

By the way: What you need to know for primary voting in Collier County

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Roy Terry, 80, is Collier County School Board member. He is seeking reelection in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary. © Submitted Roy Terry, 80, is Collier County School Board member. He is seeking reelection in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary.

Another priority is addressing student rezoning because of a new high school opening next year near Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Livingston Road, he said. The new school will accommodate 2,000 students, and some students will be shifted from Gulf Coast High School and elsewhere, he said.

“We need to hear from our communities that will be affected and then review where our students are and how we will reassign them to the schools that are undercrowded,” he said.

A "No Mask" advocate's chair sits empty in front of the Collier County Public Schools administrative center Tuesday. The school board voted to end school face mask requirements. © Thaddeus Mast A "No Mask" advocate's chair sits empty in front of the Collier County Public Schools administrative center Tuesday. The school board voted to end school face mask requirements.

Keay, 53, a former teacher who is completing studies to become a certified financial consultant, said the school district's most pressing issues are protecting student safety, promoting academic success and developing an education system that benefits all students equally.

The retention of quality teachers is key to academic success, and she wants to see all schools become A-rated.

“More resources should go to C-rated schools to ensure they catch up to their A-rated school peers,” Keay said. “All students deserve to have the same opportunities no matter their ZIP code.”

She is calling on the district to get involved in the housing affordability challenge, which she said is essential for retaining good teachers and keeping them motivated.

“If school districts, investment bankers and local governments in Miami and other parts of this country can collaborate to build workforce housing for their teachers by using school bonds, then the district should seriously consider this.”

Tim Moshier, 55, of Naples, is a candidate for the District 5 seat on the Collier County School Board in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary. © xxx Tim Moshier, 55, of Naples, is a candidate for the District 5 seat on the Collier County School Board in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary.

Top issues for Moshier, 55, who works in sales of used trucks, are teacher pay, low reading and math scores, and school safety.

He started attending school board meetings when COVID-19 hit and the board debated mask mandates. He said he found a lot of things with the board “that just didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said.

Teachers in Collier average earning $54,000 per year, and that’s 15% less than the national average, he said. The current board has declined to address it, he said.

“Every time you go to the school board meeting, they do not seem to have the money,” Moshier said. “There’s no explanation why they aren’t paying (teachers) more.”

The district has 3,100 teachers yet more than 4,000 non-teaching or administrative employees, he said.

“We need more teachers and less administrators,” he said.

On student achievement, the district needs to address that 30% of students are not reading at their grade level, and math skills are low, he said. 

When test scores for reading and math are low, but the district has a graduation rate of 92.7%, something doesn’t add up, he said. Teachers are having to teach for scores and that’s not right, he said.

“They are teaching for the tests,” he said.

Fourth grade teacher, Amanda Bray, smiles after receiving a Golden Apple award from Champions For Learning on Thursday, April 17, 2022 at Lake Trafford Elementary in Immokalee, Fla. The education foundation made a surprise visit to six schools to recognize teachers and their classroom best practices. © Caitlyn Jordan/Naples Daily News/USA Today Network-Florida Fourth grade teacher, Amanda Bray, smiles after receiving a Golden Apple award from Champions For Learning on Thursday, April 17, 2022 at Lake Trafford Elementary in Immokalee, Fla. The education foundation made a surprise visit to six schools to recognize teachers and their classroom best practices.

Turino, 48, an academic mentor, said her top issues are students' low passing scores on tests, student clusters in classrooms, and parental rights.

"We need to look at the schools that have low passing rates and bring in administration, teachers and staff that are trained to work with students that are struggling," she said. "Extend the math and reading tutoring to be year-round as opposed to a few months a year." 

Ana Turino, 48, an academic mentor and a District 5 candidate for the Collier County School District in the Aug. 23, 2022 primary. © xx Ana Turino, 48, an academic mentor and a District 5 candidate for the Collier County School District in the Aug. 23, 2022 primary.

Classrooms with students in both the Exceptional Student Education and English learning programs need assistants to help with disruptive student behavior, she said. Having to stop teaching to address behavior hurts teacher morale, she said.

Boyer, 52, an educator in Immokalee and radio talk show host, said failing student achievement, overcrowded schools and loss of great teachers because of low pay and outdated teaching methods are his top issues.

The needs of each school ought to be examined to "ensure effective and quality learner-driven education," he said. 

It is imperative that the district be well-timed in addressing growth and classroom size, he said.

"For years some schools have been overcrowded, which is one of the most significant issues in our district," he said. "It causes more noise, less individualized focus, discipline issues, (and) lack of personal connections between students and teachers."

The lack of affordable housing for teachers needs to be addressed immediately by the district coordinating efforts with housing development programs, Boyer said.

Superintendent Kamela Patton to leave district after 2022-23 school year

What about critical race theory?

Keay supports banning critical race theory in schools. CRT suggests racism is embedded in U.S. institutions. Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibited it in April in legislation he championed.

“Teaching students about CRT would be like expecting them to comprehend a master’s level astrophysics class,” she said. “We should use taxpayers’ money more wisely by using it to address the safety and mental health problems that are real and traumatizing to students.”

Terry says critical race theory is not in the curriculum and is not taught in Collier schools as required by the governor’s order.

“If there is a complaint we have a process to deal with it,” he said. “All employees have a right to due process.”

Moshier doesn’t think critical race theory is in the curriculum but is being implied by some teachers in how they approach social topics. Some teachers push their agendas, but it’s not universal among them, he said.

He said one way to make sure teachers are running their classrooms by the book is to have cameras in the classrooms; that also would help with safety, he said.

Turino said critical race theory should be taught in college but not in Collier schools. She does not believe the district is in compliance with the prohibition on teaching it because no one is tracking supplemental curriculum in addition to textbooks.

"Teachers are at liberty to pull worksheets online when they want to add a lesson to a subject area," Turino said.

Arthur Boyer, 52, an educator in Immokalee, is a District 5 candidate for the Collier County School Board in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary. © Submitted Arthur Boyer, 52, an educator in Immokalee, is a District 5 candidate for the Collier County School Board in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary.

Boyer said critical race theory is being taught in schools and that the district is not in compliance with the governor's order.

"Teachers have the strong support of the superintendent for (critical race theory)," he said. 

What about LGBTQ and ‘Don’ Say Gay?'

On the divisive Parental Rights in Education law (House Bill 1557) that critics have dubbed "Don't Say Gay," Keay said the district does a good job following state guidelines that restrict discussion of sexual orientation or gender identification in kindergarten through third grade.

“They do address such issues with education and training, especially if a teacher is involved,” she said.

Jackie Keay, 53, and a former teacher, is a District 5 candidate for the Collier County School Board in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary. © Submitted Jackie Keay, 53, and a former teacher, is a District 5 candidate for the Collier County School Board in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary.

Terry said there has not been sexual orientation teaching in the kindergarten through third-grade level that is the focus of the law.

“We have no health education until you get into high school,” he said.

Moshier stands apart from the other candidates, saying the bill should address students older than third grade. He said he was shocked to learn how some books in school media centers have sexual content that should not be allowed at the middle school level.

“I don’t think the bill goes far enough,” he said. “Pull the books out. Here they wanted to put warning labels on them. Get them out.”

Turino did not say whether the district is in compliance with the law.

"House Bill 1557 is protecting parental rights," she said. "It has nothing to do with saying or not saying gay. It is meant to protect parental rights, and gender identity is not to be taught from K-3."

Boyer said the school district is making some progress in complying with the LGBTQ law yet there is a lot left to do.

"It is critical that school leaders develop and maintain a safe learning and working environment for both students and employees regardless of their sexual orientation," Boyer said.

Naples Pride marched on 5th Ave. Friday, February 18, 2022, to protest the "Don't Say Gay" Bill. The group first met on the steps of the Collier County Courthouse to deliver a petition to Senator Passidomo's office. They then met at Cambier Park to protest down Fifth Avenue. © Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today,Florida Network Naples Pride marched on 5th Ave. Friday, February 18, 2022, to protest the "Don't Say Gay" Bill. The group first met on the steps of the Collier County Courthouse to deliver a petition to Senator Passidomo's office. They then met at Cambier Park to protest down Fifth Avenue.

Guns and school safety

On school safety in the wake of the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the candidates largely share the same view that teachers should not be armed.

There are deputies in all Collier schools, but Moshier would like to see turnstile gates installed as a better way to keep people off school campuses.

He supports the volunteer guardian program that became law in 2019 in Florida. The program allows retired law enforcement officers or former military members to be armed on school campuses as private guards.

Keay says there needs to be a more balanced approach on gun control to better protect students.

“The process starts with background checks,” Keay said. “Then weapons should not be sold to anyone unless based on age and history, they show they can safely handle the responsibility of owning a weapon.”

She also suggests legislation that would require civilians to go through the same screening as military personnel.

“This should become a standard for the country,” she said.

Terry said Collier schools have a deputy in each school, two in each high school, a single point of entry in each school, and they are fenced.

“I feel confident we have done everything to provide a safe environment,” Terry said. “I personally don’t want to arm teachers in schools. I feel confident the (Collier County Sheriff’s Office) can handle any situation if we have one.”

Turino said the district should look into bulletproof glass for the front doors that are the point of entry for each school.

"We need to choose a room for the students to be sheltered at that has ballistic resistant doors," she said. "I would also look into the guardian program."

Boyer did not offer specific suggestions about what the district should do to better protect schools.

"It is absurd that school shootings have not been more than a political issue while we are still counting victims," he said. "Our school leaders and local law enforcement institutions need to work together to ensure safety and security."

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Collier County School Board District 5: Crowded race could mean no decision in primary

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