Happy Monday! Let’s start the week with some School Board politics.
Two seats are up: Districts 2 and 4.
Sandy Counts is the District 4 incumbent and running for re-election. It’s early yet, but she’s so far unopposed.
District 2 incumbent Ginger Bryant is in her sixth term. I haven’t spoken with Ginger, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest she’s ready to hang it up after 24 years in office.
District 2, based in Crystal River, has thus far attracted three candidates: Laura Gatling-Wright (no relation to JWC), Dale Merrill, and Victoria Smith. I’ve heard other names considering a run as well.
What should we expect from School Board candidates? A general idea of how the school district operates, what’s working and what isn’t, and a concise plan for improvement.
A positive attitude about the Citrus County School District is a must.
Which puts Smith in an odd place.
Smith’s husband is former state Rep./Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith. For reasons I’ve never understood, Mr. Smith has a well-earned reputation for tossing wild accusations against the school district with no proof.
Several readers a few weeks back sent me screenshots of Jimmie T’s Facebook page where he went on the attack regarding the recent demotion of Citrus High School football coach Josh Ross, who lost his coaching job after a fight between two players in the locker room. No coaches were present, and the school district concluded Ross was at fault.
After the coach's discipline, but prior to the investigative report being released, Smith had a tirade against the administration.
“It’s been reported by me that Lazy Larry Bishop has failed to improve a slowly decaying locker room…” he wrote, then proceeded to list allegations that I won’t repeat.
We’re going to stop right there. Larry Bishop is the activities director at Citrus High School. Like anyone in his role, Bishop no doubt has detractors.
But “Lazy Larry Bishop?”
Think about this. The husband of a school board candidate, a former lawmaker, thinks it’s OK to publicly insult the school district staff.
It’s pretty simple: Jimmie T. is going to ruin his wife’s campaign. Whoever supports Victoria should go in with clear eyes, knowing that her husband is right there to toss gasoline on fires wherever he can. Do we really want that kind of turmoil in the school district?
Back to the coach. After Jimmie’s outrage, I made a records request for the district’s disciplinary report. I really didn't care about it all that much but I wanted to see Jimmie’s response after Just Wright Citrus reported the findings on its Facebook page.
Sure enough, he came through.
“Sadly Mike Wright does what he always does. Simply shills for the district,” he wrote. “A reporter who consistently posted glowing comments about Sam and other members of administration on his personal page can’t be considered unbiased reporting.”
Jimmie T. had requested the same report and he posted it along with several comments that called the investigation into question.
Again…why? What is Jimmie Smith aiming at here? A scattershot of accusations serves no purpose other than to disrupt, so I have to guess that’s it.
Normally I would leave such nonsense alone. Jimmie gets no traction on his Facebook page when he brings this stuff up, so all I’m doing is giving it a wider audience.
But with his wife as a candidate, it’s not out of the realm of reality to wonder if School Board member Victoria Smith would be the same — cheap insults for the benefit of political gain.
Jimmie T. sees conspiracy everywhere. It’s kind of sad, actually.
Shortly after I wrote about the coach report, Jimmie sent a note to the school district demanding to know who I was talking to. I kid you not. Here it is:
“I am requesting the information pertaining to any and all calls to or from Mike Wright and any employee or school board member during the period of October 1 through November 22 of this year.
To help in addressing the understanding of my request, I am looking for.
What day and time
Who initiated the call
What the subject was.”
Look. This is all silly and ridiculous, and we could just laugh it off as Jimmie T. being Jimmie T. Now, though, his wife wants on the School Board. That raises the level of discourse. Jimmie’s posts are fair game in his wife’s candidacy.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this district race plays out. Just one request: Grownup behavior, please.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.