SARASOTA — David Graham wants to trade his position in the Sarasota County School’s analytics group for another district job: School Board member.
He’s running against Karen Rose to replace longtime Board Member Caroline Zucker in the District 2 seat. The race is nonpartisan, which means it will be decided in the Aug. 18 primary.
A 1985 graduate of Riverview High School in Sarasota, Graham was away from the area for about 30 years for college and a career in business intelligence, moving back in 2016. He brought his experience crunching numbers to the district, where one of his areas of focus is the achievement gap.
He said he started going to School Board meetings because the district was involved in lawsuits and other contentious issues.
When he heard a board member say during a meeting: “If you don’t like it, why don’t you run for School Board?” he said, “I felt like they were talking to me.”
“I’ve got to stand up for what I believe in,” he said.
As he delved into district policies and procedures, he said he was surprised to learn it didn’t have a disaster preparedness plan to turn to when the pandemic hit.
A distance learning plan was developed but teachers weren’t all using the same platforms to teach or communicate with their students, he said. They will be to the extent that learning will be online when school resumes, which should happen in a hybrid system offering both in-person and distance learning, he said.
But if they’re working with students in person and remotely at the same time, he said, they’re going to need help in the classroom.
The achievement gap is largely unchanged over the last 12 years, he said, with both Black and Hispanic students lagging behind whites.
He suggests sending certified teachers who work at district headquarters into the schools to help and creating after-school enrichment centers where students could get assistance with homework, and maybe even a meal.
He’d also like to implement dual language classes, as Manatee County has done, to bring students along in their subjects as they gain proficiency in English.
He opposes vouchers because the standards for them have gotten so loose that private schools can “cherry-pick” the students they accept, which will drive down achievement standards in public schools and “prove” they don’t work.
The recent superintendent search was “perfect,” he said, showing that the board could work together and with the community without bickering.
“In this case they listened to everybody,” he said.
Infighting is distracting and looks bad, he said.
“How can we ask the students and teachers to act professional if we’re not acting professional? he said.
In all regards, he said, “we should be an example for all the other school districts in the state” and nationally.”