Collier County School Board elections
The 2022 general elections are fast approaching, and the Greater Naples Chamber and the Leadership Collier Foundation want to ensure its members and alumni are informed when they head to the ballot box.
As our public schools educate our future entrepreneurs and workforce, The Greater Naples Chamber is vitally interested in Collier County Public Schools.
Partisanship or Performance
In Florida, school board elections are nonpartisan. That’s a part of our state’s constitution. The framers felt that child education and welfare should be above politics.
Unfortunately, in our current Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) school board elections, three very partisan challengers, are seeking to take over our school board and turn our public schools into a platform for their political beliefs. And to get there, they are playing fast and loose with the facts.
For instance, the challengers’ and their supporters’ mailers and texts claim that 40% of Collier Public School students cannot read or do math at grade level.
Claiming 40% of all students cannot read or do math is simply not accurate and is misleading.
Florida has very high standards, as evidenced by statewide performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, where Florida is ranked #4 in math and #6 in English Language Arts (ELA) for fourth grade student performance. CCPS is ranked #5 among all 67 districts in Florida, with 66% of fourth grade students scoring level 3 or better on the Florida Statewide Assessment (FSA) in reading, making CCPS a top ranked district in a top ranked state.
To put this in perspective, fourth grade reading performance in the #1 ranked district in Florida, St. Johns County, is 76%. This is further confirmation of Florida’s high standards, which allow our students to excel nationally and is reflected in the national rankings. It should also be noted that CCPS serves a much more diverse student population than St. Johns County. In a diverse school district such as CCPS, where 54% of students come from homes where English is not the primary language, and approximately 15% of CCPS students are English Language Learners, some students simply may not have fully developed the vocabulary and command of the English language to demonstrate full proficiency. For those students, intensive support is provided, and, in fact, many CCPS students from homes where English is not the primary language successfully graduate and pursue post-secondary education.
Another claim: CCPS students are subjected to Critical Race Theory
During a brief time in 2020, following the death of George Floyd and in response to national and local dialogue regarding perceptions around the many facets of diversity, a book discussing racial awareness was used in training for administrators and a select group of school leaders. The choice of the book was not based on supporting critical race theory, but to understand the national race discussion and its impacts on education. CCPS ended its usage when staff felt they better understood the dialogue regarding perceptions around the diversity conversation.
This was followed up with a School Board notice in June 2021 informing the community that “the School Board and the Superintendent do not support the teaching of Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) in its classrooms, and CRT is not and will not be part of the district curriculum and teaching and learning framework.”
If you want to know if CRT is being taught in our schools, don't believe the rhetoric, ask a teacher.
Another claim: The District allows sexually explicit and age inappropriate materials in school media centers
The school district continues to ensure that all students have access to a variety of learning resources and opportunities, not only to increase student achievement, but to promote college, career, and life readiness. All media centers provide developmentally appropriate, highly engaging, and standards-based materials for students.
To ensure that parents retain ultimate control over what their child is reading from the media center collection, the district provides parents directions for accessing the online system to view books checked out by their child(ren). They also have advisory notices in the electronic circulation system informing parents about books flagged as “of concern” by some community members. Lastly, the District has developed procedures to allow parents to object to media center books.
And finally, there’s the claim that LGBTQ and transgender materials are being presented to encourage gender dysphoria.
Our school district strives to educate ALL children in a nurturing, supportive environment. There are no CCPS policies, administrative procedures or practices promoting gender dysphoria. The district takes the Parent Bill of Rights seriously and has incorporated them into policy, along with training District administrators and staff. Additionally, CCPS requires instruction aligned with Florida Standards, and provides instructional materials and curriculum guides that are aligned with Florida Standards.
On the other hand, consider the documented performance of the district under its current school board:
School Performance: For the 2021-22 school year, CCPS students and staff once again earned an “A” rating, continuing a successful “A” streak dating back to 2017 and ranking CCPS in the top five districts statewide. In fact, CCPS is one of only five districts statewide who have been “A” rated since 2017. Additionally, the District's graduation rate has improved to 92.7% in 2021 from 72.5 in 2011, a 20.2 percentage point increase. Plus, CCPS schools have outperformed the state average in all twenty-one tested areas, positioning our district’s schools as some of the best in the state.
Leadership: Navigating a global pandemic was tough, but decisions made by the current School Board leadership created multiple learning options for our students including in-person, synchronous online learning, and E-Collier Academy; preserved the student experience by ensuring access to clubs, sports, band, theater, and orchestra. Plus, CCPS distributed thousands of computers and Wi-Fi hotspots to maintain student access and expand school beyond the school walls, as well as providing over 1 million meals.
Fiscal integrity: CCPS is on track to be debt free in 2026. The district is also in position to pay cash for their new high school (saving taxpayers over $41 million in interest payments by not taking out a loan for the new construction). Moreover, while over twenty other school districts in Florida went before the voters to request a tax increase, our district proposed a tax neutral referendum instead of a tax increase.
We urge all voters to be informed. Go to the candidates’ websites and review their platforms. Are their platforms founded on personal ideologies and partisan politics? Do they parrot false claims, or do they focus on student performance and fiscal integrity?
Be informed. Know the issues and get the facts. And, above all, vote! Our community is counting on your vote to maintain academic excellence.