Saturday, January 23, 2016

Upcoming Naples mayoral and city council candidate forums

While only residents of the City of Naples can vote in City elections, decisions of the Naples mayor and city council affect many of us. From the League of Women Voters of Collier County:
The first of a year-long series of public forums sponsored by a broad-based civic coalition are set for next week. 
The races for mayor of Naples and three seats on City Council will be featured from 6 to 7:30 p.m.on January 25 and 27 respectively at Naples City Hall. 
The events will be broadcast live on the city's Comcast cable channel 98. Incumbent Mayor John Sorey and City Council members Bill Barnett and Teresa Heitmann will face off January 25, and council candidates Ellen Siegel, Reg Buxton, James Moon, Michelle McLeod and Wynn Phillips will discuss the issues on January 27. 
Election day in Naples is March 15. All the races are non-partisan. For council, the top three vote-getters win four-year terms. 
Sponsoring organizations for this and further state and local political forums are the League of Women Voters of Collier County, Collier Citizens Council, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Collier County Presidents Council, Greater Naples Better Government Committee, Naples Press Club, Pelican Bay Property Owners Association, East Naples Civic Association, Greater Naples Leadership, Golden Gate Civic Association and the Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association. 
Retired Naples Daily News editorial page editor Jeff Lytle will moderate. Candidates will field written questions from sponsoring groups and the audience. 
To vote in the March 15 election, you must be registered to vote by February 16. For more information, visit www.colliervotes.com and the City of Naples Election 2016 webpage here.

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Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, "like" me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Whistleblower Policy, School Calendar on Agenda for Tuesday’s School Board Meeting

Tuesday, January 12
The Collier County School Board will meet this coming Tuesday beginning at 4 PM (business meeting at 4:30 PM) at the MLK Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples. See agenda here.

Five agenda items are of particular interest to me:

  • Request to approve another new charter school (Agenda Item B10)
  • Request to approve the 2014–15 Audit of School Activity Funds (Agenda Item C174)
  • Yet another attempt to approve the School Board Whistleblower Protection Policy (Agenda Item C1)
  • Request to acknowledge the Report of the 2014–15 Annual Audit by the Auditor General of the State of Florida (Agenda Item C175)
  • Request to approve the 2016–17 Academic Year Calendar

Application for another new charter school (Consent Agenda - Item B10)

Continuing last year’s spate of applications, the Board will likely approve yet another charter school. South Florida International Charter School projects to serve, at full capacity, 1394 students in grades 6–12 and plans to open in August.

According to the Naples Daily News, “the operator is registered with the state as a not-for-profit corporation and is associated with Building Hope, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that facilitates financing for charter schools.” The school hopes to find a location south of Naples Airport.

As long as a charter application meets State requirements, School Board approval is required. Since the application is presented on the Consent Agenda with the Superintendent’s recommendation for approval, presumably that’s the case.

2014–15 Audit of School Activity Funds (Consent Agenda - Item C174)

This item was discussed at last month’s Board meeting. As noted at the time, no items identified in the audit were determined to be material weaknesses, however some record keeping and bookkeeping errors were noted. At the request of Board Member Erika Donalds, approval of the audit was deferred to this month’s Consent Agenda to give the public an opportunity to review the detailed school-by-school findings. They are available for review here.

Whistleblower Protection Policy (Unfinished Business - Agenda Item C1)

This is a Second Reading of School Board Policy 3211 Whistleblower Protection. It’s the fourth time the policy has come before this Board; it was previously discussed at the August Work Session, the October Board meeting and the November Board meeting. According to the minutes of the November meeting, public comments on the policy were made by frequent critics Keith Flaugh, Dr. Joseph Doyle, Doug Lewis and Steve Bracci.

At the November meeting, Board members discussed the possibility and desirability of anonymous third-party reporting, but did not reach consensus on the matter. The policy is now coming back as a Second Reading with a minor wording change.

Hopefully it will be approved so the Board can focus on more pressing matters.

2014–15 Annual Audit by the Auditor General of the State of Florida (New Business - Agenda Item C175)

School Districts are audited by the State on an annual basis. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board will be asked to “acknowledge receipt of the audit report and order it filed as a part of the public records.”

The District got a “clean opinion” on its financial statements, and the audit did not identify any deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting that were considered to be material weaknesses. As is usually the case with ANY audit report, opportunities for improvement were noted. Four relate to the Virtual Instruction Program and one relates to Transportation. For details, see the audit report at page 78 and the District’s response and corrective actions at page 83.

2016–17 Academic Year Calendar (New Business - Agenda Item E2)

It seems the school calendar is always a topic of much discussion and debate. Hopefully this won’t be the case this year.

The presentation posted online describes the work done by the Calendar Committee to ensure that input from all stakeholders was received and considered, and that State requirements are met. In developing the calendar, the Committee considered these priorities:

  • Focused on student learning
  • First semester ends PRIOR to Winter Break
  • Build in at least one Hurricane Make Up Day during the first semester
  • Spring Break at least a week PRIOR to state assessments
  • School ends by the end of May or early June
  • Sensitivity to the traditional and cultural observances of holidays
  • Full week off for the Thanksgiving holiday
  • Early Dismissal Days
    • No more than 7 days
    • More in the second semester than the first
    • Distributed equally across all week days
The Board will be asked to approve the proposed calendar. These are some highlights:

  • First day of school for students = August 10
  • Thanksgiving Break = November 21 - 25 (Monday - Friday)
  • Winter Break = December 19 - January 3
  • Spring Break = March 13 - 17
  • Assessment Window = March 29 - May 5
  • Last day of school for students = May 31

If any of these Agenda Items are of interest to you, let Board members hear from you before the meeting:

Kathleen Curatolo - curatoka@collierschools.com
Erika Donalds - donale@collierschools.com
Kelly Lichter - lichteke@collierschools.com
Julie Sprague - spraguju@collierschools.com
Roy Terry - terryro@collierschools.com



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Elections Are Coming (Redux)

This post was originally published on Monday, 12/28/15. I am republishing it today to highlight the Collier County School Board candidate forum on May 18. It's too important to miss! Much thanks to the reader who alerted me to the problem with the initial post.

While we're on the topic of the 2016 School Board elections, take a minute to read the recent Naples Daily News Editorial "School accountability, board direction key decisions in 2016." Highlighting legislative priorities, education funding and elections, it concludes:

There are crucial decisions ahead, so this is no time for a repeat of the 2014 primary, when nearly four out of five registered voters stayed away in Collier and Lee.... Stakes are [high] in the Collier School Board election, with the minority faction on current 3-2 votes hoping to wrest control. Three newcomers are signed up; so far neither of the incumbents who are part of the majority that’s supportive of the district administration has filed papers to run.
And now, the repost:
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An important goal of Sparker's Soapbox is to encourage and help people - especially in Collier County, FL - to be informed voters. With that in mind, I’m pleased to share a Guest Commentary that was published in Saturday’s Naples Daily News.

Save these important dates for 2016 candidate forums
By Charlotte Nycklemoe, League of Women Voters of Collier County, and Dave Trecker, Collier Citizens Council

The 2016 elections are coming — like a tidal wave.

In March, August and November, there will be 14 separate races plus an unknown number of referendums and constitutional amendments. At this writing, for Collier County alone there already are about 25 candidates, and that number will grow and could even double by election day.

To help voters make sense of all of this, the League of Women Voters and the Collier Citizens Council are partnering with the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, the Naples Press Club, the Collier County Presidents Council, the Greater Naples Better Government Committee and a number of civic associations to sponsor a series of candidate forums. There will be debates, with platforms offered and challenged. And, importantly, there will be a chance for voters to ask questions.So mark these dates on your calendar:

  • Jan. 25: Naples mayoral candidates; City Council chambers, 6 to 7 p.m.
  • Jan. 27: Naples City Council candidates; City Council chambers, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • April 7: Florida legislative candidates; Hodges University, candidates for House Districts 80 and 106, 4 to 5:30 p.m.; candidates for Senate District 23, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • April 13: Collier County Commission candidates, District 3; Golden Gate Senior Center, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • May 18: School Board candidates; Norris Center, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 4: Referendums and constitutional amendments, North Naples Church, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

The stakes in these elections are high, perhaps as never before, and the issues are contentious. 
In the city of Naples, mayoral and council candidates will joust over the development of Baker Park, management of the beaches, upgrading the City Dock and cleanup of Naples Bay. And that’s just a start.

At the state level, a key question is whether we can we deliver a delegation that can get something done in Tallahassee. Like passing a budget on time. Or redrawing voting boundaries without resorting to the courts. And what about tax cuts, education funding and the environment?

The School Board primary in August is sure to be a donnybrook, and the outcome will set the tone for county education for years to come. Budget reform, control of textbooks, Blue Zones in the cafeterias and standardized testing are a few of the issues. 

The District 3 County Commission race may well decide the swing vote in what have routinely become 3–2 decisions by the commission. Issues include things as broad as growth management in eastern Collier County and as narrow as control of Clam Pass.

Then there are the constitutional amendments. Although uncertain at this time, they may include medical marijuana (again), one or more solar power initiatives and term limits for judges — measures that are both important and controversial.

So save the dates. The forums will be free to the public, first-come, first-served in seating. They will be nonpartisan and objective, but tough questions won’t be spared.

It’s important for all of us to get to know the candidates and understand the issues. And when the time comes, it’s equally important to vote, either by mail-in ballot or in person. The 2016 elections will set the course for critical times ahead — in local and state government and in education.


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post: The Elections Are Coming!

An important goal of Sparker's Soapbox is to encourage and help people - especially in Collier County, FL - to be informed voters. With that in mind, I’m pleased to share a Guest Commentary that was published in Saturday’s Naples Daily News.

Save these important dates for 2016 candidate forums
By Charlotte Nycklemoe, League of Women Voters of Collier County, and Dave Trecker, Collier Citizens Council

The 2016 elections are coming — like a tidal wave.

In March, August and November, there will be 14 separate races plus an unknown number of referendums and constitutional amendments. At this writing, for Collier County alone there already are about 25 candidates, and that number will grow and could even double by election day.

To help voters make sense of all of this, the League of Women Voters and the Collier Citizens Council are partnering wi th the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, the Naples Press Club, the Collier County Presidents Council, the Greater Naples Better Government Committee and a number of civic associations to sponsor a series of candidate forums. There will be debates, with platforms offered and challenged. And, importantly, there wi ll be a chance for voters to ask questions. So mark these dates on your calendar: Jan. 25: Naples mayoral candidates; City Council chambers, 6 to 7 p.m.

  • Jan. 27: Naples City Council candidates; City Council chambers, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • April 7: Florida legislative candidates; Hodges University, candidates for House Districts 80 and 106, 4 to 5:30 p.m.; candidates for Senate District 23, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • April 13: Collier County Commission candidates, District 3; Golden Gate Senior Center, 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
  • May 18: School Board candidates; Norris Center, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 4: Referendums and constitutional amendments, North Naples Church, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

The stakes in these elections are high, perhaps as never before, and the issues are contentious.

In the city of Naples, mayoral and council candidates will joust over the development of Baker Park, management of the beaches, upgrading the City Dock and cleanup of Naples Bay. And that’s just a start.

At the state level, a key question is whether we can we deliver a delegation that can get something done in Tallahassee. Like passing a budget on time. Or redrawing voting boundaries without resorting to the courts. And what about tax cuts, education funding and the environment?

The School Board primary in August is sure to be a donnybrook, and the outcome will set the tone for county education for years to come. Budget reform, control of textbooks, Blue Zones in the cafeterias and standardized testing are a few of the issues.

The District 3 County Commission race may well decide the swing vote in what have routinely become 3–2 decisions by the commission. Issues include things as broad as growth management in eastern Collier County and as narrow as control of Clam Pass.

Then there are the constitutional amendments. Although uncertain at thi s time, they may include medical marijuana (again), one or more solar power initiatives and term limits for judges — measures that are both important and controversial.

So save the dates. The forums will be free to the public, firstcome, first-served in seating. They will be nonpartisan and objective, but tough questions won’t be spared.

It’s important for all of us to get to know the candidates and understand the issues. And when the time comes, it’s equally important to vote, either by mail-in ballot or in person. The 2016 elections will set the course for critical times ahead — in local and state government and in education.


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tuesday: School Board work session on mathematics

School Board Work Session
Tuesday, December 15, 4 PM
Next Tuesday’s School Board Work Session on the topic of Elementary Mathematics promises to be informative. It is on the agenda at the request of Board member Kelly Lichter, an outspoken critic of how math is taught in our schools.
According to the Executive Summary on the meeting agenda, “State standards and district-developed curriculum maps and resources form the foundation of the elementary math curriculum. The presentation will share the connectedness between the elementary math program, the secondary math program, and the types of problem-solving necessitated for college and career readiness.”
A draft PowerPoint presentation to be given at the meeting indicates what we can expect.
First, Jennifer Kincaid, Executive Director, Elementary Programs, will review the Mathematics Florida Standards (MAFS), which are the foundation for the CCPS math program. 
Then, Sarah Woofter, Coordinator, Elementary Mathematics, will explain how computation is done under MAFS, and illustrate the difference between understanding vs. memorization with what I found to be really interesting examples. 
Next, Margaux Horne, Assistant Principal, Lake Trafford Elementary, will present the many types of support available for teachers and parents of students in K–5 math. 
Finally, Kimberly Ragusa, Coordinator, Secondary Mathematics, will explain how the way elementary math is taught prepares students for math instruction at the high school level. She will also explain changes to the ACT test beginning Fall 2015 and the SAT test beginning in March 2016 for which CCPS students are being prepared. From the PowerPoint:
The ACT reformatted standards reflect the language of the many sets of college and career readiness standards being used by states, of which the Common Core State Standards are one. The ACT score report will have additional reporting areas for each section (English, mathematics, reading and science) and a composite score of those four.
SAT questions focus on skills that matter most for college and career readiness and success. Changes to the new SAT will include words in context, command of evidence, essay analyzing the source, advanced mathematical concepts on more complex equations and the manipulation they require, problems grounded in real world context, analysis in science and in history/social studies, use of founding documents.
If you’re interested in how math is being taught in Collier Schools, and WHY it’s being taught that way, attend the meeting in person, watch it live on TV or the CCPS website, or watch it at your leisure on-demand.
If you have comments to share with School Board members or the Superintendent, email them here:
Kathleen Curatolo - curatoka@collierschools.com
Erika Donalds - donale@collierschools.com
Kelly Lichter - lichteke@collierschools.com
Julie Sprague - spraguju@collierschools.com
Roy Terry - terryro@collierschools.com
Superintendent Kamela Patton - patton@collierschools.com



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Checking in on Board Behavior

Tomorrow night’s School Board Work Session is an opportunity for community members to judge for themselves how well or poorly the Board is functioning at the one-year anniversary of its five members’ service together as a Board. On the agenda:
  • Board Self-Evaluation
  • Governance Model
  • Accreditation

Board Self-Evaluation (Item C280)

The Board gave itself terrible marks on its first self-evaluation in June. See my post about it here. As the result of Board member Julie Sprague’s request at the time (“I worry about accreditation” – video clip here), the Board conducted another self-evaluation this month.

Sprague had hoped that some of the issues and concerns reflected in June would be addressed and that this one-year evaluation would show improvement.

Unfortunately, while there was some improvement in the ratings of 15 of the 34 indicators of Board performance, 11 of the indicators received their lowest scores in the seven-year history of the evaluation.

I encourage you to look at the evaluation itself. It paints a sorry picture in several areas of how our School Board is functioning.

In particular, I want to share the written comments of Board members regarding three specific indicators as reported here:

Indicator 7: The School Board and the Superintendent work together to create a climate of good faith and goodwill through team work and clear communication

Curatolo: The dysfunction and lack of teamwork has become more evident as time passed.

Lichter: The Superintendent is confused on board and Superintendent roles. She is under the false impression that she has authority over board members i.e. board briefings in her office where she sits at the head of her conference table, refuses to meet with certain members, is insubordinate, has lied to certain board members, refuses to respond to questions in writing, continues to give committee appointments and other titles to vitriolic and hateful community members that continue to publicly slander certain board members, and finally she works closely with her personal attorney, Jon Fishbane, to create policies and amend bylaws to strip power from the elected and the people they represent.

Sprague: This is an area of grave concern. There has been a continuous erosion of trust between members of the leadership team based on false allegations and lack of respect for employees and fellow Board members. Some Board members have undermined operational decisions made by the Superintendent and supported law suits filed against the District and Superintendent.

Terry: There is still a lack of trust between some Board members and the Superintendent. Some members did not even show up for the opening of schools meeting to start the school year.

Indicator 14: The School Board and the Superintendent work well together in the spirit of mutual trust and confidence.

Curatolo: This has not been the norm since November 2014.

Lichter: I don’t trust her, because she lies to me and treats me like her subordinate. She works with Jon Fishbane and others to script meetings, so it makes it difficult to trust her. I also have in my possession emails where she and other district personnel were actively targeting a specific charter school in our community for no real reason.

Sprague: Trust and confidence have deteriorated since our June evaluation. A Board member has issued public records requests for fellow Board member’s and staff emails without any evidence of wrong doing. The Superintendent and staff have been accused by some Board members of lies and conspiracy at public meetings. One Board member disregarded the publicly shared advice of the District General Counsel and Superintendent which resulted in a Cease and Desist letter addressed to the entire Board by the Florida Education Association.

Terry: The lack of trust by a few Board members and their group in the Superintendent and the rest of the Board is a problem. This causes a lot of extra work for the Superintendent and her staff.

Indicator 34: The School Board addresses issues before they come urgent to critical.

Lichter: My final comment: The real evaluation will take place at the ballot box. Time could have been better spent looking at academic performance data and seeking solutions, so that every child has access to the very best education.

Sprague: We as a Board need to seriously address our dysfunctional behavior. It sets a horrible example for students and causes distrust in the school district and community. With an AdvancED [accreditation] review looming in the near future, the time to rectify the situation is now before drastic action is imposed on us. Sadly, our behavior has become the topic of conversation throughout the community. It is up to us as a team to work together and focus on our vision and mission for the benefit of all 45,000 children in our District.
Only four of the 34 indicators were rated favorably by all Board members. That’s very bad.

Governance Model (Item B16)

The Governance Model sets forth the terms under which the School Board members agree to operate. It includes such things as behavioral norms, roles and responsibilities of the Board and the Superintendent, the expectation of “cooperative governance,” and more.

The current Governance Model has been in place since 2010. Sprague suggested, as a result of the Board’s self-evaluation in June, that it be revisited, as explained in a prior post. It was discussed during the Board’s August Work Session, and is on tomorrow’s agenda to finalize changes. See latest draft here.

The Board’s inability to reach agreement on something as basic as its Governance Model is simply appalling.

Accreditation (Item B15)

Many School Board observers, myself included, share Sprague’s concern that the hostility of certain Board members toward Superintendent Kamela Patton and, to varying degrees, other Board members, will affect the District’s accreditation.

Our concern is based on history: poor Board conduct almost caused the District to lose its accreditation in 2007/2008 (more here), and the Board’s conduct this past year has been even worse – as evidenced by its self-evaluations.

The last item on Tuesday’s Work Session agenda is a presentation on the accreditation process by a representative of accreditation agency AdvancED, followed by a presentation on how the District prepares for accreditation by its Executive Director responsible for overseeing the process. Click here for the PowerPoint to be used in the presentation.

Conclusion

We as a community should be extremely concerned and embarrassed by what this second Board self-evaluation says about us. I know I am.

I couldn’t agree with Licther more: in addition to the next accreditation review, an equally important evaluation will take place at the ballot box – not just in August, when the District 2 and 4 seats are on the ballot, but in 2018, when Districts 1, 3 and 5 will be up.

Tuesday’s Work Session will begin at 5:30 PM time certain, following the 4 PM Board Organizational meeting, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples.

If you wish to speak at the meeting concerning Work Session topics, register your intention online or in person before the 5:30 PM start. If you are unable to attend the meeting but want to give comments to the Board and/or Superintendent, email them at:

Kathleen Curatolo - curatoka@collierschools.com
Erika Donalds - donale@collierschools.com
Kelly Lichter - lichteke@collierschools.com
Julie Sprague - spraguju@collierschools.com
Roy Terry - terryro@collierschools.com
Superintendent Kamela Patton - patton@collierschools.com



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Invocation at Commencement of Meetings and More on Agenda for November 17 School Board Organizational Meeting

Each November, the Collier County School Board holds an organizational meeting to elect officers and decide upon meeting times and dates for the upcoming year. (Agenda here.) Last year, then-newly elected Board members Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter began what was to become a year-long and still-ongoing battle, following their Contract with Collier County playbook. 
Unfortunately, I expect this year’s meeting to be as full of drama and discord as it was then. (See my post about that meeting here.)
There will be an opportunity for Public Comments, although only on agenda items, which include:
  • Election of Officers
  • Meetings and Times
  • Invocation at Commencement of Board Meetings
  • Board Assignments
If you wish to speak, register your intention online or in person before the meeting’s 4 PM start. 
Election of Officers
Last year, Lichter nominated Roy Terry to be Board Chair, even though Kathleen Curatolo had first been nominated by Terry and it was Curatolo's turn in the long-standing rotation. Curatolo was elected by a vote of 4 to 1.  
For the coming year, it is current Board Vice Chair Julie Sprague’s turn in the rotation. 
Meetings and times
One of the seven “major reforms” of the Contract with Collier County was to “require Board meetings to commence on or after 5:30 PM in order to give all parents and working taxpayers the opportunity to attend and participate.” Previously Board meetings started at 4 PM.
At last year’s meeting, Curatolo and Sprague offered historical perspective on why the 4 PM start had been chosen in the past:
  • Board meetings have been held at different times over the years. The current 4 PM start time was a compromise that seems to meet most people’s needs.
  • Some parents work second shifts, and a 5:30 start time would mean that they would have to miss the meetings.
  • Even with the 4 PM start time, the public recognitions portion of each meeting is the first thing on the agenda. The business part of the meetings starts later.
  • Going to a time-certain start to the business portion of the meeting might mean less time to recognize the children who are being honored and whose work is being showcased.
Despite their remarks, the Donalds/Lichter motion to change the time passed, with the conciliatory support of Terry. This past year, meetings have started at 5 PM, with the business portion of the meeting at 5:30 PM time certain. This is the only one of the Contract’s “major reforms” they have accomplished.
Given how long Board meetings have gone on this past year, not infrequently ending at 11 PM or later, I emailed Board members asking them to return meeting start times to 4 PM, with the Business meetings to start at 4:30 PM time certain. I urge you to do the same (email addresses below).
Invocation at Commencement of Board meetings
This matter has come up twice this past year, at the June 9 and July 28 Board meetings.
At the July 28 meeting, Collier County resident Jerry Rutherford, President of the self-described religious organization World Changers of Florida and a long-time advocate for prayer in the schools, requested permission during Public Comments, to “offer a prayer for the School Board.” In consultation with District Counsel Fishbane, permission was granted, with the understanding that Rutherford’s prayer would be part of the three minutes he, like any member of the public, was allowed to address the Board. 
Addressing “Almighty God and Our Heavenly Father,” he offered a specific prayer for each Board member, the Superintendent, and the District Counsel – by name, and concluded by saying, “So be it. In Jesus’ name.” (YouTube clip here.
During closing comments at that meeting, Fishbane provided historical information regarding the invocation at CCPS School Board meetings. (YouTube clips here: Part 1 and Part 2.) 
Chair Curatolo then recommended that Board members do research and bring their recommendations to the Organizational Meeting in November. 
An August 8 Naples Daily News editorial, “A better alternative than invocation at School Board meetings,” is worth the read. 
Board meetings frequently begin with recognition of students, and students often attend Board meetings. Just as prayer should not be allowed in public school classrooms, it should not be allowed before School Board meetings. 
It is particularly important that community members express their opinion on this highly-charged matter. 

Board member email addresses below. 
Board Assignments
The following 2015 committee assignments were approved unanimously by the Board at last year’s Board Organizational Meeting:
  • Education Foundation of Collier County-Champions for Learning - Roy Terry (Kathleen Curatolo-Alternate)
  • Head Start Policy Council - Julie Sprague (Erika Donalds-Alternate)
  • State Legislative Liaison - Roy Terry (Kelly Lichter-Alternate)
  • Value Adjustment Board - Erika Donalds (Julie Sprague-Alternate)
I expect similar assignments to be made at Tuesday’s meeting. 
Where and When
The November 17 School Board Orientation Meeting will begin at 4 PM at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples. It will be followed by a School Board Work Session at 5:30 PM time certain (Agenda here). 
If you are unable to attend the meeting but want to give comments to the Board and/or Superintendent, email them at:
Kathleen Curatolo - curatoka@collierschools.com
Erika Donalds - donale@collierschools.com
Kelly Lichter - lichteke@collierschools.com
Julie Sprague - spraguju@collierschools.com
Roy Terry - terryro@collierschools.com
Superintendent Kamela Patton - patton@collierschools.com

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.