Brown, Rose Offer Different Experience to Schools

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Editor's Note: Part 1 of 2

Shirley Brown, a veteran lawmaker-turned-school board member, faces a challenge from Karen Rose, a long time administrator within the Sarasota County Schools in an election this year that pits knowledge of the political arena against that gleaned on area campuses. At a time of contention between school administration and other regional agencies, the two candidates will spend coming months making the case their approach will be most valuable in keeping Sarasota’s public education system the envy of the state.

Rose, who recently retired as executive director of middle schools for the district, runs with the backing of the teacher’s union and local Republican Party, forces not often in agreement. She credits years of relationships on campuses through the region along with a focus on students. Rose also has worked for years with philanthropic leaders on programs like TechActive classrooms, which held its pilot effort at Sarasota Middle School while she served as principal there. “In 28 years as a teacher and later a principal and administrator, every single decision I made was about the children,” Rose says. Recent news that all middle schools in the district earned a state assessment greater than a B, and especially word of major increases in algebra scores in the district, show her leadership made a different for students, she says. And she feels strongly that's thanks to classroom improvements, not the recent hire of more assistant principals district-wide.

Of course, Brown makes her own case, having served on the Sarasota School Board since 2006 as the district dominated the state in performance on a variety of measures. She says while the district saw a “revolving door of superintendents” before her election, she helped provide greater continuity in leadership while the district continued to try new things. She says her strong but calm voice on school issues should remain on the board, especially at a time when controversial political matters threaten to take public schools off course. “Not that I don’t get heated sometimes, but I work to keep the focus on the district and the kids,” she says. “Sometimes I provide that voice of reason or help to provide a solution that works.” She says the recent decision by the teacher's union has more to do with recent salary negotiations than anything, but believes a contract that rewards the district's 1,646 teachers rated as "highly effective" with a higher raise was the best move for area schools.

The election for School Board District 4 is scheduled for Aug. 28.

Pictured: Shirley Brown, Karen Rose

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