Eric Robinson, candidate for the Sarasota County School Board for district 3 is running for re-election this November.
Robinson, 52, moved to Venice in Sarasota County in 2001 to start and raise his family.
Robinson has a bachelor’s of science degree in finance from the University of Florida and a master’s of business administration degree from Florida International University.
When he is not handling his duties as a school board member, he works as a certified public accountant.
The Sun spoke with Robinson about why he is running for re-election, his hopes for the district, and how the school board can repair its relationship among its members and the community.
Why do you want to serve on the school board again?
I want to focus on closing the achievement gap, focus on teacher and employee morale, and focus on fiscal responsibility. I have consistently asked for planning and advocated for superintendent compensation to be based upon the educational achievement of the bottom quartile of students. I have performed multiple Robinson work days where I work alongside an existing employee to learn what it takes to do each job in the school district. I have been a teacher, bus aid, custodian, food service worker, plumber, landscaper, behavior specialist, registrar, guidance counselor, just to name a few. I proposed free aftercare and pre-care for the children of employees. I have also advocated for staff to utilize adult educational program for free. However, there are many other issues that need to be addressed to support our staff. I want to continue to work to improve their working environment. Lastly, our spending needs to be focused on bringing up the achievement of our bottom quartile of students.
In your opinion, what is the biggest achievement you have seen from the board during your term?
I believe that transparency, accountability and oversight over administration has come front and center during my term. The school system takes care and educates our most valuable resource, our children. We also are entrusted with the fiscal responsibility of large amounts of tax dollars. I helped to make School Board meetings more transparent. Our workshops are now fully broadcast in School Board chambers and on YouTube, after I began posting them on my own. Now parents, teachers, employees, and taxpayers can watch what we do with their tax dollars.
You have expressed financial support for candidate Karen Rose during her first campaign, can you explain that relationship?
When Karen Rose was the Executive Director of Middle Schools for Sarasota County School District, I discovered how knowledgeable she is and I grew to have a deep respect for her. During this time, a culture of harassment and intimidation was created in the district by administration above Karen. Karen eventually resigned and put in writing that she was being harassed. The superintendent did not investigate this, but rather he began a campaign of attack against Karen Rose. She decided to stand up for herself and run for School Board. I felt that I wanted to support her desire to stand up against the people who treated her so badly. It showed a level of character that is refreshing.
Are you a part of her current campaign (either financial, through mentorship, etc.?) Why is this important to you?
I act as her treasurer. I have seen how she cares for the students and our community. Having someone with a strong educational experience would be a huge asset.
What issues in the district are important to you?
I want to close the achievement gap. The fact that students who live south of Center Road score lower than the average Sarasota County student is unacceptable. We need to allocate our resources to help those students.
What would you like to see implemented or incorporated into the district?
I would love to see us move toward a needs-based funding model. We need to spend our money where it will have the greatest impact and where there is the greatest need.
What is your position about the school tax referendum?
I chaired a Political Committee in support of the referendum. I spoke on behalf of the referendum and campaigned tirelessly for its passage. I strongly support the referendum. Unlike my opponent, I have always voted in the referendum and voted for it.
How do you believe the board could better work together?
I believe we should listen and respect each other. Sometimes you need to take a principled stand for what is important. I believe that I was endorsed by the Teachers Union because I am willing to fight for our students and teachers. An example would be when the majority of the board decided to investigate a victim of sexual harassment, I stood against them. I understand that caused friction with my fellow School Board members, but I believe I did the right thing.
Do you believe Sarasota County residents trust the school board? If not, why and what can be done to regain that trust?
I believe some stances the majority have taken have eroded the public’s trust in the school board. We must be willing to listen to the public and realize that we are stewards of the public’s school.
What have we learned in the past few months about how to best educate students?
We learned two things. First, we have learned that internet is a necessary utility. Second, relationships that teachers have with their students allows for students to be motivated and to know that their teachers were there to support them. I am deeply appreciative of the administrative and instructional staff being able to adjust so quickly and implement distance learning.
Where do you think the school district should be in five years?
Fully implement zero-based funding model which creates an education equity. We need to make a greater priority to raise the educational level of our lowest 25% of students.
Why should the community re-elect you for the board?
We have an opportunity to change that culture of our school system. I feel we have the ability to improve the level of education in Sarasota County. I have been endorsed by the teacher’s union because I have spent my first term fighting for the students and teachers of our district. I will continue to do so.
Anything else you would like to add?
I donated my School Board salary back to the schools. One of my first donations was over $10,000 to help change the curriculum at Emma E Booker. The teachers at the school wanted to try something different. I firmly believe that teachers should be supported because they understand what is happening in the classroom more than anyone else. I teamed up with the teachers’ union, and in 12 months the school went from a D school to a B. I want to continue in my next term to have a positive impact on students’ lives. I noticed a real need for emotional wellness education at North Port High. I brought the Social Black Belt program to North Port High. The program lowered the discipline rate and taught students how to handle stressful situations.