Sarasota County School Board race heats up, candidates highlight differences
SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (SNN) - The District 2 Sarasota County School Board seat is up for election in 2024.
The race has been heating up ever since former school psychologist Liz Barker filed to run against incumbent Karen Rose.
Right away, the race kicked off with controversy, with Barker criticizing Rose for initiating steps to redistrict the five school board districts during a workshop held on August 15.
“That’s completely unwarranted,” Barker said. “Now it’s also fiscally irresponsible. I wish member Rose would spend more time focused on supporting our students and teachers and less time on furthering her own political agenda.”
Redistricting last happened in December 2021. And this move would bar Barker from running in 2024. She pointed out the suggestion from Rose came just hours after she decided to run.
But Rose said she welcomes any opponent to the race.
“That is a desperate stretch and that is silly,” Rose said. “I look forward to running against any opponent.”
Rose pointed to her almost three decades of experience serving Sarasota County Schools and listed accomplishments such as expanding student career opportunities, increasing transparency in the budgeting process, and record-breaking staff raises.
She even referred to her move to fire former superintendent Brennan Asplen.
“We had not even minimal growth over multiple years in science, math, and reading,” Rose said. “I will tell you as an educator and leader in our district, well-known for academic excellence and providing quality programs, sometimes you have to make tough decisions.”
But Barker denounced the decision.
“She’s the one who made the decision to fire our highly effective superintendent, who actually came to us from the highest performing school district in the state of Florida,” Barker said. “And that really threw our schools into chaos.”
Barker said experiences as a parent with children in Sarasota County public schools is a needed point of view on the board.
“Now that I’ve been home with my children, I’ve had the opportunity to be in the classroom with them as a volunteer,” Barker said. “I'm the president of the PTO at my elementary school. There are no other school board members who have children actually attending our public schools.”
But Rose says her position has allowed her to build relationships with thousands of students and families.
“What it really comes down to is assuming the responsibility for every student to graduate ready for college,” Rose said. “And we’ll become number one in the state of Florida as a result.”
While both women are at odds over the direction of Sarasota County’s Public Schools, both say they are against politics and culture-war issues distracting from student success.
Voters will have to decide whose approach they want to see in 2024.