EDUCATION: Bonardi, Smith explain why they're not seeking reelection

Mar. 05, 2014 @ 05:03 AM

The Lee County Board of Education met Tuesday night. And while there wasn't much on the board's agenda, it was the beginning of a stretch of final meetings for two eight-year veterans of the board.

John Bonardi and Linda Smith both decided not to seek reelection this year in a crowded field that includes four Democrats and three Republicans vying for three spots. Bonardi, an unaffiliated voter who recently left the Republican Party, said he couldn't bring himself to serve on the board now that it's partisan — a change made last summer by a local bill from Rep. Mike Stone.

"I could not see myself running for a seat on the board of education under a political party," Bonardi said after the meeting. "There's just too much you might be beholden for."

Smith, a Democrat, said she agreed that she disliked the new political nature of the board as well, and that she also wants to devote more time to her family and other boards and volunteer work — including volunteering in the schools.

"I really want to stay involved," she said after the meeting, rattling off a list of new or upcoming projects she said she's excited to follow as they develop. She currently leads the board's curriculum and instruction committee.

Bonardi, who leads the facilities and technology committee, said he will use his remaining months to keep fighting for funds from the county to build a new elementary school.

He and Smith both agreed that some of their most proud accomplishments on the board were helping oversee the construction of SanLee Middle School as well as massive renovations to Lee County High School. They both also said the hiring of new Supt. Andy Bryan was something they think will help the district greatly, in addition to an aggressive focus on adding technology to the classrooms and the curriculum.

"In order to educate (students), you have to get them involved," said Bonardi. "And the technology does a really good job of getting them engaged."

So while they both said they're excited about the current state of schools at the classroom level, they said they're not so excited about recent legislation — such as the elimination of teacher tenure — or at the effort to turn the board into a partisan political entity. Both said the move was unnecessary and could actually harm the previous approach of the board, in which they said members had political views but would put them aside for the greater good, whatever that might have been.

"We had our disagreements," Smith said. "But at the end of the day, we did what was best for the children."

The board also:

* Heard a public comment from Laurie McCauley, a teacher who is heavily involved in issues regarding Autism and other disabilities. She reported on efforts at her school, SanLee Middle School, to get people to stop saying the word "retarded" and also upcoming events in April for Autism Awareness Month.

* Saw presentations from Broadway Elementary School, about using technology in kindergarten to make vocabulary slide shows, and SanLee Middle School, about using technology in band class to help students practice more efficiently at home and learn to read music faster.

* Approved the consent agenda, including awarding bids for a combined $206,659, given to the lowest bidder, to repave parking lots at B.T. Bullock Elementary School and West Lee Middle School.

* Handed out awards to Lynn Smith and Tamara Brogan for having undergone extensive school board training. Brogan logged between 31 and 100 hours of training this school year, and Smith logged between 201 and 300 hours.

* Honored Greenwood Elementary School as the Clean School of the Month.

* Honored Mallory Nickel of Lee Early College with the Web Page of the Month award.

* Recognized Emily Garcia, a seventh-grade student at East Lee Middle School, for winning the PAGE (Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education) countywide spelling bee, as well as some of the other contestants who placed highly.