Monday, June 20, 2016

An update on the Collier School Board elections

About a month ago, I outlined the state of the two School Board races and explained why I will be voting for Stephanie Lucarelli for District 2 and Erick Carter for District 4. A lot has happened since then, so here’s an update.

As a reminder: all Collier voters can vote in both the District 2 and District 4 races regardless of your party affiliation or where you live.

The future direction of public education in Collier County is at stake in what is clearly an ideologically-driven election. Lucarelli and Carter are strong supporters of public education and the District’s Strategic Plan, appreciate the current Superintendent (without being apologists; they acknowledge that more can and should be done), and – importantly – want to work within the system and the law for change.

Their opponents Penta and Dixon align with the right-wing Florida Citizens Alliance and Tea Party incumbents Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter. They are critical of current policies and programs, couch their intent to get rid of the Superintendent in terms of wanting to rewrite the tool used for her annual evaluation, and claim “federal government overreach” in the schools.

Here is a summary of the money raised through May 30, from the Collier County Supervisor of Elections website:


I encourage you to review the list of people who have contributed to each of the candidates’ campaigns; I’ve made it easy by compiling the data in one PDF document here. And if you haven’t made your contributions yet, or would like to donate again, please see the instructions at the end of this post.

Campaign developments since my previous post:

District 2

Importantly, two of the initial four District 2 candidates, Gene Ungarian and John Brunner, have withdrawn from the race, leaving just Stephanie Lucarelli and Louise Penta. This means that District 2, like District 4, will be decided in the August primary.

Stephanie Lucarelli
for District 2
Lucarelli (www.votelucarelli.com) was the only candidate who collected the ~1800 signatures needed to avoid paying the $1,500 qualifying fee, a testament to her determination to do so as well as her early (November 2015) start.

Penta, who was endorsed by the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, has in the past month more clearly aligned herself with the libertarian-leaning Florida Citizens Alliance (FCA), whose stated focus is “Stop Federal Overreach and Restore our Individual Rights, Guaranteed Under the Constitution.”

For example, a June 14 post on her website titled “School Board candidate Louise Penta calls for end to Common Core” is in keeping with FCA’s anti-Common Core initiative.

New to her website this month too are her responses to a FCA “Constitutional Survey for School Boards.” To the question “In your opinion, what are 2 current examples of the most egregious Federal overreach to its Constitutional powers that affect the County School Boards in Florida and what is your proposed remedy to each?,” Penta wrote:

“The federal government becoming so entrenched in public education. They add less than 10% to local education budgets, but contribute many rules to how it is spent. Public education needs to be returned to the states and districts. Article 1 Section 8, power to lay and collect taxes did not intend involvement to the point we now see. Also the 10 Amendment refers to the role of the States not the Federal government. My second example would be Common Core, the indoctrination of our children, not the education. It is all about big business and big government, starting with Bill Gates and all the way down. It needs to go away, we need to get back to a classical education. Blue Zone is working in the same aggressive manner and needs to be removed from our schools.”

She did not provide an answer to the survey’s requested “proposed remedy to each.”

The money: As can be seen in the table above, Penta is far and away the winner of the money race, both in terms of the personal loan to her campaign ($15,000 vs. Lucarelli’s $6,000) and the significantly larger average contribution ($512 vs. $120). Also of note is Penta’s $100 contribution from current School Board member Kelly Lichter and her husband Nick.

One of Lucarelli’s three $1,000 contributions is from me; another is from the Collier Teacher’s Union PAC.

District 4

Erick Carter
for District 4
Erick Carter (www.erickcarter.com) and Lee Dixon (www.leedixon2016.com) are the two candidates in the District 4 race.

Dixon, who was also endorsed by the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, made news this month with the revelation that he had used harsh language, including calling national female commentator Sunny Hostin a “racist c–t,” on Twitter in 2013. See “Collier school board candidate shuts down Twitter account after vulgar comments noted.” According to that article, he also made derogatory comments online about the elderly: “In a 2013 comment attached to a Foursquare check-in to Naples Costco Wholesale store, Dixon’s Twitter account included a comment: ”Holy s—. Aren’t these blue hairs supposed to be at their cardiologist or getting a hip replaced this time of day?"

By way of explanation, Dixon told the Naples Daily News, “This was three years ago and it has nothing to do with Collier County education issues today. Listen, we’re all sinners.”

Also this month, Dixon signed a letter, called the “2016 Contract with Collier County Voters,” in support of ten “major education reforms” “aimed at returning a voice to parents and teachers, protecting our students, and improving the quality of our local educational system.” In signing the letter, he promised to bring up those reforms during the first three regular board meetings after taking office. This, of course, mirrors the 2014 “Contract with Collier County” signed by current School Board members Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter. As I wrote in August 2014, “Candidates for elected office should not commit to ANYTHING in advance. They need the flexibility to consider the facts and circumstances of each decision, with appropriate community input AT THE TIME.”

As in the District 2 race, the candidate who aligns with the  views of the Florida Citizens Alliance (Dixon) has outraised the candidate I support (Carter). Of note among Dixon’s donations: $1,000 from Charter School operator FORZA Education Management, a total of $256.12 from Nick Lichter, $100 from Parents ROCK president David Bolduc, contributions from former conservative Collier County School Board members Linda Abbott ($25) and Steve Donovan ($200), $100 from Naples City Councilman Sam Saad III and $100 from frequent litigant against the Collier County Public Schools and critic of Superintendent Patton Steven J. Bracci.

Of note among Carter’s donations: $1,000 from me, $1,000 from the Collier Teachers’ Union PAC and $250 from state representative Kathleen Passidomo.

What’s with the Anti-Common Core theme?

As long-time readers know, I’ve been writing about the anti-Common Core mantra of the Florida Citizens Alliance for years. See, for example:


I fully expect this to continue to be a defining issue in these School Board elections.

Please contribute to our candidates NOW

School Board member Erika Donalds raised $80,000 for her successful campaign in 2014, and District 2 candidate Penta is well on her way there, with three months to go before election day. If you possibly can, please make a contribution to our candidates now.

For Stephanie Lucarelli, contribute online at www.votelucarelli.com or by check payable to Elect Stephanie Lucarelli mailed to 494 Seagull Ave., Naples FL 34108. Please print, complete and include this form.

For Erick Carter, contribute online at www.erickcarter.com or by check payable to Erick Carter 2016 Campaign mailed to 1373 Wisconsin Dr. Naples, FL 34103. Please print, complete and include this form.

Thank you for wanting the best possible public education for ALL Collier students.

Note: As originally published on 6/20/16, we referred to District 2 candidate Lee Dixon as "the Florida Citizens Alliance candidance," which suggested that he was endorsed by that group. FCA does not endorse candidates. The sentence was revised on 7/4/16 to refer to him as "the candidate who aligns with the  views of the Florida Citizens Alliance."



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