89.6 F
Spring Hill
Saturday, August 13, 2022
HomeLocal & StateMeet the Candidates: School Board District 3- Aug. 23 Primary

Meet the Candidates: School Board District 3- Aug. 23 Primary

- Advertisement -

All School Board candidates will appear on all three ballot types: Nonpartisan, Democrat, and Republican.
All voters in the county vote for candidates from a single district. Each candidate was given the opportunity to provide a 150-word bio and respond to our questions within 850 words. We had several community members submit questions for school board candidates and candidates were instructed to choose one question to answer from the public.

Thank you to the candidates for providing a bio and answering our questions.

JIMMY LODATO- incumbent

Jimmy Lodato photo courtesy of Jimmy Lodato

BIO:
Jimmy Lodato currently serves as your School Board Member, representing District 3 since 2018 and running for re-election.
Following a successful career with a national company, I founded a statewide and international non-food brokerage, which I sold at age 39. Tammy and I are both native Floridians, married 41 years, and moved to Brooksville in 1999. I have four grown children, two of which are teachers.
When Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer and going through chemo, countless fellow residents prayed for her because her name was on their prayer lists at church. This community has people who care for and support each other. This is the reason I serve—to give back to the community that I care so deeply about.
A successful education system plays a vital role in the economic development of our County. I always put our students above politics, doing what I feel is best to help them achieve success.
——–
QUESTIONS FROM HERNANDO SUN:

- Advertisement -

Please describe the three top issues facing the school district and how you would address them.
1. Overcrowding: The County has approved over 11,000 new homes which will bring in over 4,000 students. We will need to construct more classrooms at existing schools to accommodate new students.

2. Teacher and staffing shortage: Salaries have been increased. I would like to offer a signing bonus to attract new employees and a referral bonus to current employees who encourage their friends and family to apply for open positions.

3. Bullying in schools: Currently enacting more stringent policies with input from parents. I would like to implement a community service program and counseling for problem students instead of out-of-school suspension.

Do you see any areas where the school district needs to increase funding?  How could this be paid for?
Due to the increasing student population, increased funding is required to add classrooms. The best solution is to renew the half-cent sales tax now and bond the funds so that we can build the necessary additions to our schools.

Do you see any areas where funding/the budget can be cut?
Not at this time

If you are in favor of decreasing the budget, how do you pay for obligated salary increases, cost of living increases, and other inflationary costs?
N/A

Please describe up to three projects that are most important to the school district and why?
1. Complete construction of Wilton Simpson Technical College to give students an avenue to a career that does not require a college degree

2. Establish a free-standing school for students with special needs

3. Reduce busing to one mile from schools. It is dangerous for elementary school children to walk two miles when we lack sidewalks.

Do you support eliminating teacher training and student educational tools that use social-emotional learning, critical race theory, unconscious bias, and equity training?
I have stated my opinion many times that there will not be critical race theory in our District, and the governor has banned it.  

Please explain some of the strategies you support or disagree with for closing the achievement gap. The state has sent down a directive that we must close the achievement gap and there are programs in place to do so.

Do you feel that the school board’s COVID-19 response was appropriate?  In hindsight, what changes would you make?
This was a difficult time with many unknown factors and our top priority was to keep everyone safe, so we had to use extreme caution. We followed guidelines from our local health department and CDC, as well as research from local hospitals. The community was evenly split on the mask issue. Once the threat subsided, I was adamant to make masks optional and this was supported by the governor.

QUESTION FROM THE PUBLIC:
Why should the parents, teachers, and staff of Hernando County support you? What do you have to offer that the other candidates do not? 
I have been involved with the School District for nearly a decade and co-chaired with John Mitten to restore $120 million funding to repair our schools through the half-cent sales tax. Many thanks to our thirteen volunteers and strong support from our community.

Worked with State Senate President Wilton Simpson to secure funding for a free-standing vo-tech school, supported by Governor Ron DeSantis. Wilton Simpson Technical College is expected to begin classes in 2023.

I visit all Hernando County schools and meet with teachers, parents, students and school employees who share the needs of the School District. I am always available to anyone for meetings, or by cell phone or email.

Worked on the School District Finance Committee to assist with balancing the budget. The District’s current fiscal year has the best budget reserves in seven years

Increased teacher and District employee salaries every year. Approved starting pay for teachers to $47,000 and approved minimum starting pay for employees to $15 per hour

Worked with the School District Safety Committee and the Sheriff’s department to ensure funding for every school to have a School Resource Officer, as well as Guardians trained by the Sheriff’s Department

Lobbied since 2014 to provide courtesy busing for elementary students who live more than one mile from school. Recently brought forth a proposal to purchase fifty new buses to replace our tired fleet.

I have advocated to eliminate high frequency testing and give teachers control of their classrooms – let teachers teach.

A strong advocate for expansion of mental health programs.

Working with business leaders in the Tampa Bay area to establish a stand-alone school for children with special needs

Purchased 25,000 computers using grant funding so that every student will have a computer

Supports and protects the Parents Bill of Rights signed by Governor Ron DeSantis

Advocates to provide the right path for every student, whether college or career

Supported a dedicated children’s mental health facility to be built on the border of Citrus county

Proudly endorsed by Hernando Classroom Teachers

Working to create local job opportunities by bringing companies to Hernando County.

SHANNON RODRIGUEZ

Shannon Rodriguez photo courtesy of Shannon Rodriguez

BIO:
Shannon Rodriguez has been a member of Hernando County for over 36 years. She is a graduate of Central High School. She and her husband Dave have four daughters, three of which are currently enrolled in the Hernando County School System. She has a nursing degree from PHSC. Shannon and Dave, own and Dynasty Collision and Auto Repair in Weeki Wachee. Shannon oversees the marketing, communications, and public relations program within the community for their business. She is active in several community organizations including Kiwanis Club of the Adventure Coast, Rotary, and Junior Service League of Brooksville. She is a member of the Hernando Schools Career and Technical Education Advisory Board, and Vice President of the Hernando County Education Foundation. Shannon has a desire to make a positive impact in the lives and futures of students and says there is no “one size fits all” to education.
——-
QUESTIONS FROM HERNANDO SUN:
Please describe the three top issues facing the school district and how you would address them.
The top three issues affecting the school district in my opinion are the failure of the district to work with the county commission, lack of parental involvement, and a curriculum centered around political ideology versus teaching skills essential for the workforce and life in general.

As for my approach to addressing these issues, I would be interested in forming alliances with other county boards, particularly the county commission, and addressing issues through cooperation, not frivolous litigation.

Since September, I have traveled the county and have heard from parents and grandparents who feel that they no longer have a voice in the education of their children and or grandchildren. As a board member, I will be visible in the schools in my district and welcome dialogue between parents and or grandparents and the board.

The nationwide curriculum is now being centered around CRT and gender neutrality. I’m afraid that this divisive curriculum could make its way into our district without the right leadership on the board. When our students are graduating without the ability to endorse a paycheck in cursive, sign a voter identification card or read the Declaration of Independence as it was intended to be read, we need to look at the curriculum. I’m in favor of curriculum transparency and would implore the district to teach skills essential to competing in a 21st-century workforce.

Do you see any areas where the school district needs to increase funding? How could this be paid for?
The US Department of Education announced in April over $220 million in investments coming from Government, private, and the public sector to support student recovery. In addition, a year ago, Governor DeSantis allocated $9.7 million to the Hernando County School District to expand workforce training for high school and adult education students in Hernando County. This funding is extremely beneficial as our county is rapidly growing. We also need to make sure that the resources we receive are well-used.

Do you see any areas where funding/the budget can be cut?
The US Department of Energy estimated that school districts can save between 25 and 50 percent on energy costs by switching to LED lightbulbs and reducing thermostats outside of school hours. Through energy efficiency, renting facility space to the community, optimizing transportation costs, and tracking inventory effectively can help avoid budget cuts.

If you are in favor of decreasing the budget, how do you pay for obligated salary increases, cost of living increases, and other inflationary costs?

It is not a matter of decreasing the budget, but our district needs to be more fiscally responsible and allocate funds in the proper places. I also feel it is important to implement the cost savings strategies I outlined above as well as be open and exploring other ideas.

Please describe up to three projects that are most important to the school district and why?
Three projects of most importance to the school district are preparing for the new influx of growth the county will experience in the years ahead much in large part because the county is growing.

Establishing a curriculum that ensures that our students have the skills needed to compete in the 21st-century workforce and thrive in our community. Many of our students cannot endorse a paycheck in cursive, or sign a voter Identification card and these are among the traits needed to be productive in a functioning society.

The third project would be overseeing the construction and operation of the Wilton Simpson Technical School. The technical school will contribute to the success of the community and produce a new vibrant workforce and source of tax revenue. We must ensure that it is opened and operated efficiently.

Do you support eliminating teacher training and student educational tools that use social-emotional learning, critical race theory, unconscious bias, and equity training?
I support the elimination of critical race theory from the school curriculum. CRT in my opinion is divisive and pits peers against each other. The CRT curriculum has no place in the Hernando County School district and has not proven to be of benefit.

Social-emotional learning, unconscious bias, and equity training have been described as a Trojan horse to foster a CRT and gender identity curriculum and that would be of concern to me since such said curriculum is not of benefit to the students in our district.

Please explain some of the strategies you support or disagree with for closing the achievement gap?
Among the strategies I support for closing the achievement gap would be developing relationships with parents and grandparents.

Setting benchmarks and tracking progress. Data is a gift, let’s use it. Tracking our student’s progress will allow us to set reasonable but challenging goals for how our students can advance.

We can personalize learning. Technology is a great way to build personalized learning as students begin to pace themselves, find new challenges independently, and work with resources that lead to college and career success.

Do you feel that the school board’s COVID-19 response was appropriate? In hindsight, what changes would you make?

I was disappointed that the board defied the Governor’s optional mask order and ignored the will of the parents. In hindsight, I would have followed the order from the Governor and allowed parents to make decisions best suited for their child or children.

QUESTION FROM THE PUBLIC:
How should the growth be managed and who should pay for it? Do you agree that Hernando County should protect current residents and increase residential impact fees to ensure that ‘growth pays for growth’?
I absolutely believe that Hernando County should protect current residents but I do not believe that raising impact fees to pay for growth and a new influx of students is where we should start. We have other venues we can explore which are more cost efficient such as bringing in portables and implementing the Governor’s school choice program to ease the crowding in public schools.

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Most Popular