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News Section: Schools and Education

Frank Brunner Talks Leadership, Getting in Touch with District Employees

Published Saturday, June 21, 2014 12:05 am

BRADENTON – "I don't think it's a secret right now that our school board is facing the biggest challenges it's faced in close to 20 years in terms of finance and structural changes," said District 4 Manatee school board candidate Frank Brunner while speaking over the phone on Monday. The former school board member, who is running for Karen Carpenter's seat, advised that he wants to bring cohesiveness to what he described as an often-divisive board.


"If you don't meet those challenges, they become problematic, and they take away from the main focus, which should be educating kids."


Brunner also said that what he called a lack of cohesion on the board distracts from discussion about education, adding that he hears "from people over and over again in the community that during board meetings, there's a lot of contention and finger-pointing but not a lot of talking about kids."


A board member for the district from 1996 to 2006, Brunner says that some of the issues that came about during his tenure - including a significant shortfall in the late '90s - has helped prepare him for the seat, should he be elected."I know about leadership and how to build a consensus," he said. Brunner added that while on the board, he embraced a state program called "Best Financial Practices Review," by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.


Brunner also talked about wanting to ensure that the district has a strong handle on the opinions and concerns of its employees.


"We did Employee Climate Surveys while I was on the board, and (we need to go back to doing that) ... we need to let them know that their input and feedback matters, and they may have some ideas on how things can be made more efficient."


Brunner also talked about diversity of opinion, saying "People in Parrish may not neccesarily feel the same as people in West Bradenton." 


Calling himself "a product of the Manatee School District," Brunner graduated from Manatee High School in 1985 before attending West Point and receiving a Bachelor's in science in 1989.


After being commissioned as an officer in the infantry, Brunner was a combat infantry platoon leader in the first Gulf War. He is currently the Executive Director of Manatee Crime Stoppers.


Brunner says that his candidacy has the endorsement of former board members Joe Miller, Walter Miller, Harry Kinnan and Larry Simmons. Homesteaded in Palmetto, the candidate recently signed a one-year lease on a one-bedroom apartment in Bradenton in order to apply to run for the seat.


Homesteaded in Palmetto, the candidate recently rented out an apartment in the Bradenton district he is running for in order to register for the election. The same was done by school board District 5 candidate and Pinellas resident Mary Cantrell, who wrote in a Lakewood Ranch residency. Brunner confirmed that on Monday, he had qualified to run as a candidate for the seat and was on the ballot.


Brunner is married to Palmetto City Commissioner Tamara Cornwell; he has a stepdaughter from her, Ashley Daniel, who works within the school district. The couple have twin sons, Josh and Luke. 

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Frank Brunner seems to be an ACE of a candidate. Admirable, Capable, and Experienced. This article alone highlights much of what's needed in a school board member - traits Mr. Brunner has:

(1) His experience with Employee Climate Surveys, which the school board used during his 10-year tenure. Truly, it would be wise to let him facilitate a return to that practice of getting valuable input from school district employees.

(2) His experience as a combat infantry platoon leader in the first Gulf War. It never hurts to have military experience on a county board.

(3) His ability to build a consensus. It sounds as if this could come in handy in dealing with the often-divisive board.

(4) His leadership of the board in attaining the "Best Financial Practices Review" gold seal. His push for accountability surely could not hurt in getting the district budget under control.

(5) His work as Executive Director of Manatee Crime Stoppers. This brings another valuable dimension regarding the problems and needs of our young people.

(6) His part in cutting the school budget without laying off any employees when the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 and other circumstances forced the school board to cut out nearly $15 million in spending. We need more such wise use of money.

(7) Finally, his dedication and sacrifice in order to serve us. His antagonistic critics seem quite adept at false assumptions, allegations, and accusations. They seem more full of heat than light. The law requires a candidate to live in a district for just one day a year. Mr. Brunner is sleeping there every night (after kissing his wife and children good night at their Palmetto home)! I wonder how many others would be willing to sacrifice even one day a week.

For someone such as Mr. Brunner to not only abide by the law but be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to serve on our school board is something that should be admired, not attacked. Church evangelists are not criticized for spending weeks on the road away from their families. Many missionaries even have to send their children miles away or even back to the USA for years while they translate the Bible in some foreign jungle.

Henceforth may the campaign be one of careful analysis and a fair and balanced discussion of the issues without ad hominem attacks and character assassination.
Posted by Randy Tucker on June 25, 2014

Brunner is as good old boy as it gets.
Having him on any elected seat is three steps backward.
He's not even a law abiding citizen!
Posted by Nathan Powers on June 23, 2014

I disagree with Mr. Brunner, as well as, Nathan Powers. Those, who helped create a crisis are hardly the ones best able to solve the resulting problems. I am sorry if some school employees now feel unhappy. It is painful, however, to resolve the serious problems, which are the responsibility of Mr. Bruner and those he lists as his supporters. I hope the voters will not be fooled by local history and name recognition. I live in west Bradenton, but I believe the entire county must be served, not just one school.
Posted by Nancy R Dean on June 22, 2014

I would like to point out that the employees regularly are surveyed regarding morale and how they feel about how management treats them. It is commonly assumed that these surveys are either thrown in the trash, or carefully analyzed to identify potential whistle blowers. One thing is for sure, morale keeps getting worse and if you want to keep your job it's best to remember that the walls have ears. Employee morale is a very important indicator of how healthy an organization is. Sure, everyplace has a few people that can't be happy anywhere but as a rule if the vast majority of the people who know the inner workings of an organization feel it's dysfunctional, you had better take them seriously.
Posted by Nathan Powers on June 22, 2014

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