July 3, 2024

Sarasota School Board - Report Card

The League of Women Voters of Sarasota County keeps tabs on local School Board meetings. After each meeting, they put together a "report card". You'd think this wouldn't be necessary as there are Robert's Rules of Order; School Board members are elected officials who potentially care what their constituents think; and after all, they do oversee the school system. The May 7th report card, copied below, was pretty grim. Thankfully, we have a School Board election coming up on August 20.

Sarasota County School Board Report Card

The League of Women Voters of Sarasota has established an Observer Corps to monitor the Sarasota County School Board meetings. The goal of the Observer Corps is to objectively evaluate meetings for ethical, legal and professional conduct on the part of the board and chairperson.  This evaluation will be shared with the Board and the public following each meeting.

Meeting Date: May 7, 2024

A = Consistently   B= Frequently   C= Occasionally   D= Rarely   F= Not at All 


Board follows and advances a written agenda.

The Resolution presented at this meeting was not available to the public in the number of days required and was not on the original agenda for the meeting. The item appeared to suggest a discussion of the proposal that would be followed up through the regular processes of the Board.  This was not the case.  The board chair pushed for a vote on the item even though one board

member criticized the action for the agenda not being clear and the Board attorney advised against action at this meeting.   No explanation was given as to why the normal agenda process was not followed.  The sense of urgency given by the chair to this item was not sufficiently explained.  Other parts of the agenda were publicized and addressed in a typical manner. 


Board limits citizens’ comments only to opinions on topics that are in the Board’s purview.

The board chair continues to allow prayer, scripture reading and proselytizing even though they are clearly not within the board’s purview.  Several commenters used the proposed Resolution to malign the transgender community and the chair did not interrupt those comments.  More and more speakers directly stated political opinions and were open about their state and national political affiliations.  Those speakers targeted other speakers in the audience with derision and accusations.  While the board consistently calls for politics to be out of the boardroom, the chair does nothing when speakers blatantly espouse political agendas and name-call other speakers. 



Board Chair does not allow speakers to personally attack board members or use abusive language.

There remains confusion in the public as to how the chair interprets personal attacks and/or abusive language.  The chair allowed board members to attack each other.  This meeting contained a significant number of targeted negative comments to Mr. Edwards while at the same time announcing the candidacy of an opponent to his school board election. Personal attacks on a board member to provide an avenue for election campaigning is not acceptable.


Board Chair treats speakers equitably.

The chair continues to show obvious preference for those speakers who represent her political views.  She has varying degrees of success in disguising her feelings about speakers— both positive and negative.  She still appears to thank members she agrees with and not the others.


Board adheres to Robert’s Rules of Order.

Not at all.  Board members should not be allowed to attack each other.  The attorney noted how the Board was not following their usual practices. The board chair quickly seconded a motion which is not typical.  Other aspects of the meeting were highly irregular and appeared choreographed.  The Resolution was pushed as if an urgency existed and that was certainly not the case.   The following concerns about the conduct of the board related to this item are raised.:  1) the Resolution was not listed as an actionable agenda item.  2)  the Resolution had not been vetted through an attorney or other stakeholders including staff. 3) the Resolution was not workshopped to determine what the consequences of such rhetoric might mean for the district. 4) there was not a typical description of the financial and educational impacts of the action.  


The Board Chair runs an orderly meeting.

This meeting was not orderly. The chair did not stop members from attacking one another. 


Board delegates operational and educational decisions to the professional staff.

The attorney’s advice was ignored.  Furthermore, the entire discussion of implementation of Federal mandates really lies with the administration and staff as they determine how to proceed. That is their role in the everyday management of the district.    The professional staff should bring items of concern needing board action to the board as necessary.  


Board gives evidence of being responsive to public comment. The majority of the board, once again, gave absolutely no evidence of being responsive to public comment.   This was particularly difficult to watch at this meeting since so many students spoke about being bullied or harassed within the district and there was NO meaningful response from the board.   The students put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation to speak publicly about their trauma and the response from one board member that the district had anti-bullying policies was laughable.  In defense of her Resolution, Ms., Ziegler spoke at length but still was not clear about her motivation. Board members did not even attempt to address the concerns of the public.   The vast majority of citizens’ comments urged the board to avoid the Resolution and yet, the board chair pushed it through with very little discussion and one board member objecting.   Once again, the board almost belligerently snubbed public comment and gave every indication of advancing a political agenda rather than having the best interest of the district in mind.   Even allowing the Resolution to go through the regular vetting process would have acknowledged the comments of the public. The vast majority of citizen comments were in opposition to the Resolution and yet the board voted in favor.  The Board claimed to have received more than 1000 emails asking it be approved.  A request has been made for the public records to verify this.


Additional Comments: The Resolution approved by the Sarasota School Board is to defy the Title IX Regulations when they go into effect on August 1, 2024.  They felt the need to do this even though we are months away from implementation.  Their actions harm students because the regulations strengthen and clarify protections that address all forms of sex discrimination, including sex based harassment and sexual violence.  The school board’s action also jeopardizes federal funding for low income and low achieving students through Title 1.  One must conclude that the board’s motto, “Every Student, Every Day” has become meaningless.  

The board acted against school board attorney, Patrick Duggan’s advice.  He suggested they workshop this decision and reminded them that Florida was in litigation on the final Regulations.  This vote also puts Superintendent Connor is an untenable position as his signature is required on Resolutions. 

The actions of this board continue to undermine confidence in the governance of the district. Unfortunately, many saw this as a purely political stunt with no real urgency and absolutely no value to the educational mission of the district.


We recommend that the chair lead the board with intelligence, integrity and openness.  It is up to her to shut down inappropriate comments and bickering. 

We recommend the Board reconsider its decision on this Resolution for the following reasons:

1.    Each board member has a duty to act in the best interests of the district—not support their own political agenda or career.    

2.    Resolutions are legally binding and therefore should be made after much discussion and a review with the board attorney so nothing can be called into question later. If this Resolution is litigated, it could be costly to the district.

3.    A large segment of the population is angry about the approval of this Resolution.  It has exacerbated the ill-will and mistrust between the Board and the residents of our district.

4.    Even with a bullying policy on the books, students are being bullied and experiencing sexual harassment and violence in our schools on a regular basis.  The board has an opportunity to publicly offer support and protection by not signing a Resolution that says exactly the opposite. 

You can watch the full School Board meeting here