Sweeney merits second term on school board
Hernando TodayThe issue: Hernando School Board District 1 race.
Published: August 17, 2010
Published: August 17, 2010
Our opinion: Incumbent John Sweeney better prepared to serve.
John Sweeney understands the complexities - and absurdities - of school finance and that Hernando County students are being ripped off by the state when it comes to per pupil funding.
Each student in Hernando County gets several hundred dollars less each year than students in surrounding counties. The reasons why are vague, bureaucratic and downright nonsense. On top of that, students in Hernando County have seen a 4.4 percent reduction - nearly $300 - in per pupil funding in the last four years - from $6,850 to $6,551.
We know that the cost of everything has increased during that same period, especially education. It makes no sense, except for the fact that the state isn't spending its fair share on Hernando County students.
Sweeney, the incumbent in District 1 who's seeking a second four-year term, wants to reform the system so that it more fairly represents children across the state.
Along with lobbying state leaders about the inequities, Sweeney has also written a legislative proposal that would require special needs students to be spread out in the school district rather than having as many as 15 in a classroom.
"We're doing the wrong thing with ESE kids and we're good at it," Sweeney said during his candidate interview with Hernando Today.
Spreading them out would result in a better learning environment for all students, Sweeney said, and teachers would have the opportunity to get their ESE training, which would give them the opportunity to make more money. It would also save the district money because specialists wouldn't have to be hired separately.
Sweeney's plan makes a lot of sense, especially in these tough economic times.
Sweeney also is opposed to sibling preference in the magnet schools and would like to see some of the successful magnet programs implemented at the other schools. That might help reduce the "elitist" perception that some schools are for the haves and others for the have-nots.
To his credit and those of the other sitting board members, Sweeney has helped reduce the number of portables at district schools and inched up the graduation rate - two of his priorities. He's also presided over the construction of two new schools and was keen enough to pick a new superintendent that could carry the district forward following the rocky career and controversial departure of former Superintendent Wayne Alexander.
Sweeney took the lead as chairman of the school board following Alexander's termination. That's when board member Sandra Bonfield stepped down in protest of the assistant superintendent being tabbed as the interim leader.
Sweeney is running against challenger Nilsa Toro, a Springstead High School secretary who has worked in the district for more than 20 years.
Sweeney's business and education background, along with his tenure on the school board, make him the more qualified candidate. Hernando Today recommends voters cast their ballots for Sweeney.