District 6 school board race offers three candidates
All registered voters in Lee County can cast a ballot in non-partisan, at-large contest
All voters in Lee County will decide who will represent the District 6 seat on the Lee County School Board.
Seat 6 is at-large and non-partisan, meaning all voters countywide may cast a ballot in a three-way race featuring Tia Collin, Jada Langford Fleming and Denise Nystrom.
Cape Coral voters also can cast a ballot in one of the three district-specific non-partisan school board races in the Aug. 23 election.
The Cape is split between two districts, seats 1 and 4, depending on address, which will determine in which of the two voters may cast a ballot.
The District 1 race, to be decided by voters who live in the district — which includes parts of Cape Coral and North Fort Myers — features four candidates, Christine DeVigili, Kathy Fanny, Sam Fisher and Cathy Stout.
The District 4 race, to be decided by voters who live in the district — which includes parts of Cape Coral, North Fort Myers and Dunbar — features four candidates, Jason “Big Mama” Jones; Debbie Jordan, the incumbent; Dan Severson and Gerri Ware.
The seat for District 5 is also up for grabs.
In District 6:
Tia Collin has lived in Lee County for more than 30 years, the last six of which have been spent in North Fort Myers.
“I’m inspired to run for school board because I owe a debt to the amazing teachers and staff of the Lee County Public Schools who, not only educated all of my children, three of whom had special education needs, they also stood up, supported, and assisted us during one of our most difficult times,” she said. “It is my turn to support them. Children in Lee County deserve the best education we can provide and I look forward to working with the incredible teachers, staff, and families of Lee County to ensure they receive precisely that.”
As a Life Skills instructor, Collin works with intellectually and developmentally disabled adults in Lee County, many of whom attended the Lee County public schools system. Through this work, she has gained experience with planning, problem solving, balancing a budget, interpersonal communication, de-escalation, and working on a team for the greatest good.
She said she will bring her passion for public education to the table, ensuring all students receive a quality education. Collin said she will provide dedication to transparency, as well as her strong belief that “we” as a community can make the best decisions for the children together.
“I bring solutions, the ability to see the big picture and to break complex solutions into manageable steps, so that success is realized,” she said.
Her goals include reducing the achievement gap, improving teacher retention and recruitment, and financial transparency.
“I’m excited to jump in and take a look at what equity measures are needed in our under-performing schools,” Collin said. “I look forward to meeting with the representatives of all of the districts one-on-one to hear what their goals for their district are, so that we can form partnerships, create common goals, and devise solutions together.”
Jada Langford-Fleming, a seventh generation Floridian, has lived in Whiskey Creek with her husband and three children for the past six years.
After spending 20 years as a teacher in the classroom, she became an owner and operator of a business that offers personal training and coaching for young athletes looking to excel at their sport, as well as adults who want to live a healthy lifestyle.
She decided to run for the District 6 seat because she wants to bring education back to the forefront of the district’s priorities.
“I am determined to change the culture and put parents and taxpayers back in charge of our schools. For too long, the bureaucracy led by liberal special interests have dominated the decision making process and I will put an end to that practice. My goal is to reestablish trust and accountability between the district and the parents and taxpayers of Lee County,” she said.
With two decades spent in the classroom, Langford-Fleming said she witnessed the change and shift in the direction of curriculum and policies from traditional curriculum to cultural indoctrination.
“I understand what it takes to help students succeed and how we can attract and retain highly effective teachers. And, as a small business owner, I understand what it takes to balance budgets and make the hard decisions necessary to help rein in the district’s out of control spending,” she said.
Langford-Fleming said she will bring principals to the table that align with the conservative community. She believes that her educational and business experience will also be an asset in improving student achievement increases in the classroom, as well as managing the district’s budget.
“I hope to rebuild the trust between the district and the community, increase student achievement, and develop a responsible and manageable budget,” Langford-Fleming said.
A first task she wants to tackle if elected is to create an environment where parents and taxpayers input are not only respected, but implemented.
“The current board has completely ignored the will of this community and forgotten who they work for, and that will change the day I take office,” she said.
Denise Nystrom retired to Southwest Florida seven years ago, first living in Collier County for five years before relocating to Bonita Springs two years ago. She decided to run for the school board due to her lifelong passion for children and the field of education.
“I was a fourteen-year special education teacher, a three-year special education administrator, and an eight-year assistant superintendent of schools responsible for managing the human resource department. I attended public schools as a child, my children went to public schools, and my career was in public schools. Because of my credentials I feel that I have a lot to offer the children, families, and community members in Lee County. I understand how to address student achievement issues and teacher retention issues. I have managed a multimillion-dollar budget, have knowledge about State statutes, board policy, and labor law, and was a chief negotiator for twelve separate collective bargaining units,” Nystrom said.
For the past 16 months, she has attended the School District of Lee County board meetings, which she said has provided her with a vast understanding of the issues the district faces.
“In my capacity as an assistant superintendent of schools, I worked directly for Boards of Education for eight years. I understand the roles and responsibilities of a school board member and the importance of having a vision and mission that meets the needs of children And ultimately preparing them for post-graduation by having them enter into higher education, vocational training, the military, or a job with upward mobility,” Nystrom said.
Her ultimate hope is to work with the superintendent, administrators, teaching staff and personnel to provide a culture of respect, as well as facilitating an increase in student achievement scores, increased graduation rate and a decrease in incident rates.
“I would like to make sure that all children are attending schools that have state-of-the-art library media centers, computer labs, science classrooms, outdoor playing fields, cafeterias, auditoriums, and anything else they need to reach their fullest potential,” Nystrom said.
Nystrom understands the importance of parents being the ultimate decision maker of their children, as well as the relationship that must be cultivated between the student, parent and school district personnel.
“I want parents to feel that their voices are heard and, I want children to feel as though they have had a great educational career, not just that they have gone to school every day. Students must be involved not only in academics, but also in arts and sports and other things of interest that make them well-rounded people and ultimately, successful members of society,” Nystrom said.
Although there are many tasks she believes need to be tackled, the first main issue is to analyze student achievement across every grade level, and every building to determine how to improve programs, services and instruction to make sure all children have a rigorous education.
This story has been updated to include additional information provided by candidate Jada Langford-Fleming.