Sarasota School Board dynamic will change with retirement
SARASOTA COUNTY - The Conservatives are in position to seize control of the Sarasota County School Board, according to the Herald Tribune.
That is partly because School Board member Caroline Zucker says she will not run for reelection next year, a decision that makes it highly likely the board will move in a more conservative direction.
Zucker is a moderate Republican who has been part of a majority voting bloc with fellow moderate Republican Jane Goodwin and Democrat Shirley Brown on many key issues, allowing them to steer district policy.
Zucker's moderate views have alienated her from local Republican leaders in recent years, and last week the Sarasota GOP's executive committee voted to endorse another Republican, former school administrator Karen Rose, who is running for Zucker's District 2 seat.
Zucker and other board members also have been criticized in recent months for how they have handled the situation with Superintendent Todd Bowden, who agreed last week to a mutual separation agreement after a public outcry over his handling of allegations that the district's chief operations officer, Jeff Maultsby, sexually harassed administrative assistant Cheraina Bonner.
But Zucker said neither the pressure from Republican leaders nor the Bowden situation factored into her decision to retire.
Zucker said her husband can no longer drive and she needs to spend more time with him.
This is the second time Zucker announced her retirement. After winning re–election in 2016, she in 2020. But she reconsidered that decision.
Zucker said the prospect of losing the moderate majority voting bloc on the board was one of the factors that led her to rethink retiring at the time.
Zucker has been one of the region's leading elected officials over the last quarter century. She first joined the School Board in 1992. After losing her second re–election bid in 2000, she made a comeback in 2006 and rejoined the board.
When she departs next year she'll have served for 22 years.
Both Zucker and her husband once were deeply involved in the local GOP. She was a precinct captain for roughly a decade, and he served as party treasurer for six years.
But Zucker's moderate positions have drawn the ire of local GOP leaders. She survived a 2016 challenge from Republican Teresa Mast, in part, by receiving significant support from Democrats, which further angered GOP leaders.
The Sarasota GOP had never endorsed in races between Republicans, but in 2017 the party adopted a new "endorsement and loyalty" policy that paved the way for such endorsements. The policy was largely a reaction to School Board politics. It gave the party a tool to help oust Republicans deemed disloyal.