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Vote no in the referendum on elected school principals | News, Sports, Jobs

For the editor:

Politics has no place in education. Making Lee County Superintendent an elected office goes against everything education stands for.

Back to the origins of education. Many of us strive to take our children to the next level: college. The word university comes from the Latin: Universitas magistrorum and Scholarium, which means approximately “community of teachers and scholars”.

For me, this means an atmosphere of free learning. Everything you want to learn. Learn it.

Let’s break this down to the K-12 level. We try to educate our children so that they are ready to learn at their highest level, whatever that level.

Now, Lee County voters are being asked to oust the recently hired and hugely popular Lee County School Superintendent, Christopher Bernier, who was nominated/hired from a national pool of candidates. If Lee County votes for this referendum, Superintendent of Public Schools for Lee County will become an elected office.

Lee County stopped electing superintendents in the 1970s.

On your next ballot, you will be asked whether or not you want your superintendent to be elected OR appointed/hired by the nonpartisan school board. Don’t be fooled. The wording is tricky. If you think the post of superintendent should be filled by a partisan politician who focuses significant energies on fundraising, vote yes. If you think the highest officer in our school district overseeing the future and education of our children should be non-partisan, VOTE NO!

The verbose referendum will appear at the end of the ballot and it will basically ask you if you want to elect your next superintendent.

Guess what else: No qualifications needed, but be 18 years old, a citizen/resident of Lee County and not on trial as a criminal. Is this someone you want to oversee your child’s education?

Ideally, to help our children succeed, our superintendent must be accredited and knowledgeable, as well as demonstrate past successes in the job.

We need someone with the experience and pedigree to manage a school system the size of Lee County, especially as we continue to grow.

If this referendum is adopted, the school board will not be able to dismiss the elected representative, however bad he may be. Callbacks are not permitted under Florida law. We would have to wait for the next mandate to eliminate them.

Lee County is the ninth largest school district in the state.

And to those who are showing up at the school board right now: let me remind you that this is not cushion work. In 1994, a teacher who quit under stress, shot and killed his former superintendent before committing suicide. You might recognize the name of the man who was shot and killed: Lee County Schools Superintendent James Adams was shot five times and died. A building is now named in his honor and service.

Some politicians talk about wanting less government as they try to make our most prized and precious possessions – our children – victims of politics by making the highest office a partisan school district.

SAY NO. Don’t let politics disrupt the lives and education of our children. For more information, you can visit

Melinda Clarkson Isley

Born in Lee County, 4th generation Floridian

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