Six to vie for two seats on Lee school board
Six candidates with diverse backgrounds and ideas will vie for two school board seats in Lee County.
Four candidates will battle for the District 2 seat currently held by incumbent Jeanne Dozier, while two will try to win the District 3 seat held by Jane Kuckel, who is not seeking re-election.
The top two vote getters in the Aug. 14 non-partisan primary in District 2 will battle in the Nov. 6 general election (unless the primary winner gets more than 50 percent of the vote), while the winner of the non-partisan primary in District 3 will earn the seat.
All Lee County registered voters, regardless of party affiliation or area of residence, can cast a ballot in each race. While candidates must live in, or be willing to move to the district they are seeking to represent, they are elected countywide.
* Bob Chilmonik
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: Part-time professor at Edison State College
Chilmonik is no stranger to the Lee County school board, having served two terms from 2002-10 before unsuccessfully running for the Board of County Commissioners.
Chilmonik hopes to get elected so that some of the ideas he advocates will be implemented. Those ideas include putting the money used for busing and administration back into the classroom.
“We spend $54 million on transportation and $42 million on administration that’s better spent in the classroom,” Chilmonik said. “I want to bring back the board auditor to ensure money is spent wisely.”
But it all comes down to student results, which Chilmonik said are not up to the standards expected in this day and age.
“Fifty percent are below their reading level and 80 percent of 12th-graders fail Algebra I,” Chilmonik said. “We can’t be a world class system without first taking care of the basics.”
* Victor Dotres
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: teacher in Collier County
Dotres said he has been in the trenches, spending only his money on his campaign, and believes his ideas are what are needed for the present and future.
“We need an alternative, and as a teacher I can give the perspective of what’s going on,” Dotres said.
Dotres believes in a moment of silence and that elementary and middle school students should attend their zoned schools, and those who want to take their child elsewhere should either pay or get the child to school on their own.
Perhaps his most significant issue is making parents take ownership in their school and their child’s education.
“I want to require parents to participate a certain number of hours in education. The parents of A and B students already do this,” Dotres said. “They do their best to make sure their kids are at their best. It’s the only way to improve grades.”
* Jeanne S. Dozier
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: incumbent school board member
Dozier has been on the school board since 2000 and said she has contributed much in her time, including being elected to a state position. She said the job is never done and wants to bring in new ideas.
“I contribute leadership and strength to the district and have initiated programs to benefit all students,” Dozier said. “I’m committed to public education and won’t leave to run for another position.”
In her time, Dozier has helped open three comprehensive high schools and two arts magnet schools, among other things. She now wants to standardize curriculum and offer foreign language classes for elementary students.
“We initiated the program at Tice Elementary. It’s a disservice to our students if they can’t compete,” Dozier said. “Also, with many of our students on reduced or free lunch, students may enter one school and end the year in another. A standardized curriculum benefits students.”
* Paul Schafer
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: Paraprofessional, physical education teacher, Lee County school system.
Schafer knows the cost of an improper education, being diagnosed with dyslexia at age 28. Still, Schafer served on school boards at the city and collegiate levels while living in Illinois. He said he doesn’t like the way the children are being taught.
“We’re not giving them a proper education. We’re teaching them to take the FCATs,” Schafer said. “We spend a third of the year teaching to the test instead of subject matter designed to give them a future.”
He said he wants to look at school choice and give the people a voice in what needs to be done.
“Every time we bring up school choice, we use a stop-gap fix. We need to fix it once and for all,” Schafer said. “We need to change the way decisions are made. The people elect us. The people should make the decisions.”
* Les Cochran
Residence: San Carlos Park
Education has been a large part of Cochran’s life, having served as president of Youngstown State University for eight years, among other things. He believes the numbers “don’t add up” when looking at the test scores.
“We’re 40th in the ACTs out of 67 counties and our school funding is 11th,” Cocharn said. “There’s a lack of accountability in the system.”
And Cochran wants that accountability, with principals evaluated along with teachers.
He also wants children to earn promotions through grades, not social means, more enrichment time and longer school days, paid for by reduced busing and administrative costs.
“If you can’t read, write or speak at a third-grade level, you shouldn’t go on to fourth grade. You need to take a hard line,” Cochran said. “The world is more complex. We need to teach applications and not teach to the test. Also, enrichment periods after school for advanced and struggling students would help our kids go higher.”
* Cathleen Morgan
Residence: Bonita Springs
Morgan said she brings a financially oriented view, having worked as a vice president at J.P. Morgan before leaving to raise her family in Rye, N.Y. where she served on its school board.
She came to Florida and is on the financial advisory committee of the Lee County School Board. Morgan said you can’t educate students without the financial resources.
“I’m passionate about education, but am different than educators. I’m about financial and strategic planning,” Morgan said. “We should use the budget crunch to reconsider how we support our educational strategy instead of going into reserves.”
That means adding more days to the school year and longer school hours are a non-starter.
“That will add $30 million to a budget that ran a $20 million deficit. I support education, but we need to get our financial house in order,” Morgan said. “The best bang for the buck is in the schools and it needs to be there.”