I’m writing this blog post because some in Jacksonville are considering placing a real estate tycoon with no Education experience on the Board of Directors of the 20th-largest school district in the nation.
Please understand I have no personal beef with Mr. Shine, but this is roughly equivalent to a successful high school principal with no business experience being placed on the Board of Directors of Verizon or CostCo. It’s preposterous in either direction. I’m writing this post to ask those of you living in the Jacksonville Beaches, or Intracoastal Areas, to vote for Shannon Russell, a 20-year teacher, for our School Board.
Allow me to give my resume before I brag on Shannon, just to add myself as a data point.
I’m the 2014 Teacher of the Year at Sandalwood High School. I was subsequently named a Duval County Teacher of the Year semifinalist (Final 15 in the 20th-largest school District in the nation). My classroom has been highlighted by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, the Florida Times-Union, and WJCT Radio.
I ultimately left the teaching profession as reigning Teacher of the Year last month because of money and politics; because although Education would do well to selectively use some business practices, the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. Education is run by too many businesspeople, and not enough educators.
Many of us remember when we went to school. Many of us have kids who goes to school. And unfortunately, many of us think our limited observations and frustrations make us experts in how to “fix” schools. Shannon is an expert in Education; I believe Scott Shine is not.
To top it all off (please bear with me here), ask almost any teacher or administrator Vitti didn’t bring with him, and they will likely tell you: nearly everything Vitti has touched has been a disaster. Change is often necessary, but Vitti has repeatedly implemented change recklessly and without apparent regard of ramifications. Yet Mr. Shine looks at these literally stupid things Vitti has done, and when asked how he would rate his superintendency, says he “would give Superintendent Nikolai Vitti an eight.”
Shannon Russell, meanwhile, is a 20-year teacher at Sandalwood High School. She is an extremely intelligent, driven woman who is passionate about improving Education. She has been a leader at Sandalwood High School, in Duval County Public Schools, and a Director of Duval Teachers United. She helped make the IT Academy at Sandalwood great with her input, assistance and relevant teaching practices. But she doesn’t have the funds Scott Shine has, and has not rubbed elbows with all the powerful people Shine has, precisely because she is a teacher and gave up the opportunity for wealth and power so that she could educate your kids.
Do you see the problem? Thoughtful, intelligent dynamic teachers are often the ones who know best how to educate our kids. But it is an uphill battle, because a Step 19 teacher in Shannon’s position makes $48,000/year, and this is the most she has ever made. Not conducive to running a modern campaign, buying ads, etc. This shuts teachers out from actually helping make Education policy.
I’m hoping we can change that on Tuesday.
Shannon recently gave a speech that I thought was wonderful. I would like you to read it, and if you live off Hodges/San Pablo or live in the Jacksonville Beaches area, go out and vote for Shannon Russell on August 26.
I was respectfully and appreciatively referred to as “the underdog” earlier today while delivering signs out in our community. They don’t expect me to lose, they expect for me to win, but they also know I am going up against some big money and big connections. I’m a teacher. My connections are everyday people. I don’t have connections with many politicians or corporations. I connect with my students, their parents, our teachers, and members of our community in general. I couldn’t afford to spend $33,000 of my own money on this campaign because that is roughly what I make in a year after taxes. I spend my own money on things my students need, for my classroom, recertification, and professional organization memberships. I don’t have fancy double-sided, glossy, full-color post cards and 8 x 10 mailings or giant road signs on wooden stakes. I am relying on my $250 candidate ballot statement with the Duval Elections Office, the election endorsements post card from the North Florida Central Labor Council (thank you!), lots of door to door and small venue one on one talks, forums, screenings, meetings, and constant use of social media. And I have never run for office before, so this has been quite the learning curve for me.
But what I DO know is that people do not want more of the same. They want someone who represents THEM, not another politician, not another person with big money, not someone who is using the backs of our kids as a stepping stone to get to the next level of his or her career, not another person who wants to tell us how education should be run in our county that has never stepped a single day into a classroom to work with kids, parents, teachers, and administrators, or someone whose children are enrolled in private school but wants to be on a public school board.
Vote for the person who represents US, a veteran teacher of nineteen years who you know has always had our kids’ best interests at heart and has always stood up for them, for teachers, and for public education. My track record and experience speaks volumes. So do the donations and endorsements of my opponents. Follow the money. Question the endorsements. My promise is to You and no one else.
I promise to listen to you, and to make our schools the best learning environment for All of our students. I will ensure that their learning time in the classroom is protected from road blocks like excessive testing, discipline issues, safety concerns, and truancy. I will make sure that resources are equally shared across the district because children are children no matter where they live or what their school grade is this year, and all teachers should have equal access to training and tools to develop professionally and to help their students. And we must continue to reach out and invite our experienced community leaders into our schools to volunteer, mentor, and help us guide our students to explore their options, meet their goals, and achieve their dreams.
I know this speech has been long, but I promise you, it is not merely noise. This is the sound of Passion, for all that I have dedicated my college degree and the past nineteen years of my life to. Can I count on your vote for Duval County School Board, District 2 on August 26? We can win this together. Please spread the word: Get a TEACHER on the school board! See you at the polls!
NOTE: Shannon Russell had no input on this blog post. I wrote it completely of my own accord because I believe we need Shannon on our School Board.