Two things are certain in the race for the Sarasota County School Board District 2 seat: The winner will be new to the board but will also be someone who knows the district from the inside.

The candidates are Karen Rose, who has worked in the county for nearly 30 years as a teacher, principal and director in district headquarters, and David Graham, a Riverview High graduate who returned to the county in 2016 after a career elsewhere and works as a district analyst.

Each would bring qualities to the board that would be beneficial moving forward now, under a new superintendent.

No current board member has any real classroom experience, so Rose’s many years teaching would offer a perspective that’s been missing for a while. When she says she wants to make sure teachers are paid a living wage, she’s speaking as someone who has lived on a teacher’s salary and knows just how far it stretches.

She also appreciates the impact that getting teachers more involved in decision-making can have on them and the quality of the decisions made.

Graham brings an equal amount of experience in data analysis for major businesses around the world and several years spent crunching the district’s numbers, including on the achievement gap. We like the idea of someone with that expertise being on the board.

He has several ideas for closing the achievement gap that are worth investigating: sending teachers from district headquarters into schools as an additional instructional resource; implementing dual-language classes to help non-English speaking students in their other subjects; and enrichment centers offering homework help, and maybe even meals, after school.

Voters in the Aug. 18 primary face a tough choice. By a slight margin, we recommend Rose.

With students set to return to school Aug. 31 for the first time since March, safety will be the first, second and third top concerns in the district. We believe that Rose’s classroom experience will be especially valuable in helping to navigate the district through issues it’s never had to deal with in that regard.

That includes making sure the remote learning experience for students who opt for it equals in-person instruction as closely as possible. Rose’s background in online learning in science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — education will be useful in that regard.

We also like her pledge to put more mental health resources into the schools. That’s a good idea in general but even more important as students return after their longest “summer vacation” ever and need help regaining stability in their “new normal.”

We’re aware of a report questioning Rose’s handling of a disciplinary matter at Brookside Middle School when Rose was executive director of middle schools, saying she should have referred an incident between a teacher and a student to the Department of Children and Families.

She says she followed protocol and claims the report was politically motivated, as the investigator was connected to former Superintendent Todd Bowden.

There’s enough uncertainty regarding the report — in part because Rose declined to be interviewed after already having been deposed — that we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt regarding it.

We recommend Karen Rose for School Board District 2.


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