News Section: Schools and Education
School Board Candidate Rodney Jones Says Culture Change Pivotal for District
|Image via candidate's Facebook page|
BRADENTON – Rodney Jones describes his candidacy for the District 2 seat of the Manatee School Board as "somewhat of a natural progression." A Manatee County native whose mother was a career educator, Jones talked about his experience with budgets and community involvement in an interview with the Times.
"I felt like the board could use some fresh blood," he says. If elected, Jones would be replacing Barbara Harvey, a 16-year member of the school board, who has yet to announce whether she will run again.
Jones was involved in mentoring at various programs for troubled youth for more than 20 years, including working as a clinical manager at Manatee Glens, and at residential delinquency programs in Arcadia and in Hardee County. Recently, he was employed at SCF as a project manager for a short-term grant deal. He is currently doing substitute teaching in the district, he says, "to see what teachers experience on a day to day basis."
Along with having experience as a grant writer, Jones is also on the district's Citizens Budget Advisory Committee. "I've managed multi-million dollar budgets, but I also understand the mission of the district is to educate children." He says that while kids are "still making significant gains," recent budget issues and news about scandals within the district have overshadowed those improvements.
Jones called the district one with low morale, plagued by widespread concerns over job security due to financial issues, and talked about a cultural change being necessary to raise morale.
The solution, he says, begins with the board, whose members Jones feels often appear too contentious and divided. "It all starts at the top," he explained. "They need to present themselves in a more cohesive way to the community ... because if they present themselves in a chaotic fashion, where we're not getting along, that trickles all the way down."
Major cultural change, he says, may not happen for some time in a district that is the largest business in the county, with more than 6,000 employees.
"This is not a small ship; you're probably talking about 7-10 years for a complete turnaround," he adds.
Absent Harvey, Jones will face Manatee High School teacher Charlie Kennedy for the seat in the August primary.
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