Sarasota County School Board candidates discuss issues Thursday

Two other candidates for the Sarasota County School Board participated in a moderated forum at the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club, which was held on Thursday.

District 5 candidates Tim Enos, a career police officer, and Nora Cietek, a career school administrator, spoke for about an hour on issues ranging from school safety to school board policy.

A few hundred people attended the event held at Michael’s on East. The forum followed a similar discussion by four other candidates for the school board June 2, also hosted by Tiger Bay.

Here’s what the candidates had to say on various issues:

school safety

In the wake of school shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead, there has been a focus on school safety and how the district responds to active shooter situations.

During the discussion of this matter, Cietek pointed out to Enos that she knew more about the subject than she did.

Enos previously served as chief of the Sarasota County Schools Police Department, is executive director of the Florida Association of School Resource Officers and testified before the state legislature on safety best practices after the Parkland shooting.

  • Enos: Sarasota County schools are national leaders in school safety. The district employs all best practices. However, sanity remains the wild card. It is important to follow up with the students on the questions.
  • Citek: One of the keys to preventing something like this from happening again is to keep the lines of communication open and strong. Parents, teachers, and administrators should keep an eye on students and follow them if anyone is struggling.

Increase in money and politics in school board races

In all school board races, candidates are breaking campaign fundraising records. In 2010, District 5 candidates raised approximately $24,000 in contributions.

Sarasota County District 5 School Board candidate Nora Cietek in Tiger Bay on Thursday, June 16, 2022

Enos and Cietek raised a total of $113,357.42 by the May filing deadline, nearly five times as much. Both see the increase as natural and necessary.

  • Enos: The increase in campaign contributions represents increased engagement with schools nationwide. Increased engagement leads to more fundraising support. It also costs more to launch a campaign today than before.
  • Cietek: Governor Ron DeSantis’ increased focus on education in the state has gotten more people involved locally. Although the race is non-partisan, the issues become political and the money comes with it.

A Tiger Bay member asked the candidates to comment on their local Democratic and Republican party endorsements. Enos has been endorsed by the Sarasota County Republican Party, while Cietek is endorsed by the Sarasota Democratic Party.

  • Enos: You could say that this race is non-partisan, but it is 100% partisan. It is necessary to be recognized. The endorsement does not accurately reflect the candidate.
  • Cietek: She would resume the endorsement. She also highlighted her endorsement of the teachers’ union.

Increased National Attention to Sarasota Schools

Sarasota has garnered national attention thanks to cover in the Washington Post and other national outlets on the politicization of the school board.

  • Enos: We are better as a community than any of those things. The county should be known for its amazing schools and teachers, not the drama at school board meetings.
  • Citek: We don’t want to be known for our angry parents and crazy boardrooms. We want to be recognized for our excellent schools. Need to hear from parents, especially enthusiasts at meetings.

Thoughts on the School Board’s Public Consultation Policy

Many community members come to Sarasota School Board meetings to make their voices heard during public comments. A recent outbreak caused the early adjournment of a meetingand one woman was forcibly abducted from another meeting. Some critics of the changes made to the public comment policy stated that it restricts their First Amendment rights.

  • Enos: Public comments should be reduced to 3 minutes per person. There should be less confusion with the separation between agenda-based comments and general comments. Parents just want to be heard, so let them do the talking.
  • Citek: School board meetings are very valuable time, however, everyone should have a say. She said she saw merit in the diary-based division, but that it could have been introduced in a better way.

Make the school board more transparent

  • Enos: Wants to make it easier for the public to access information about the board’s budget, which will help keep members accountable.
  • Citek: Wants to redesign the district website to make it easier for parents to navigate and keep them involved in what the school board does.