Q&A with school board candidates

Home » Politics
Posted July 21, 2022 |

Question: What boards or committees have you sat on and what lessons did you take away from those experiences- either good or bad?

District 2

Lori Conrad

With 25+ years of service in our Marion County Public schools most of my committee participation has been directly related to public education. All of these committees have had a positive impact on our local public schools.

School Safety – Review and identify corrective measures for improving the safety of the school campus.

“A” School Committee – Allocate and approve school funding according to the state guidelines.

Magnet and STEAM Committees – Identify and create curriculum needs and enrichment opportunities that are hands on for students in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Grade Chair – Identify upcoming grade level needs and goals.

PTO Vice President  – Parent teacher organization – school fundraising

SAC committee – Student Advisory Council

PBIS committee – Positive Behavior Systems

Developing literacy through the media center and accelerated reader program to promote grade level reading goals and celebrations.

Curriculum Mapping – Outline the pace, sequence and structure of grade level curriculum standards.

Text Book Adoption Committee – Review of upcoming curriculum adoptions.

Sunshine Committee- Support and enhance staff relationships within the school environment.

Golden Apple Committee – To inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence especially in schools of need.

Marion Education Foundation & Tools 4 Teaching – Enhance education in Marion County Public schools, from Pre-K through adult and vocational education.

Marion County School Board – Regularly attending school board meetings and work sessions.

Joseph Suranni

I have frequently been involved in the Marion County Code of Student Conduct revision and review committee. This committee is assembled by Student Services to review the code and make revision recommendations regarding the code to the School Board of Marion County. This group is composed of Student service managers, assistant principals of discipline, parents, students and other stakeholders. Any revisions to the code must be congruent with existing board policy and any existing Florida Statutes.

Serving on this committee has given me the experience I need to be a leader on the school board. I have experience working with all levels of stakeholders in the district form top level leadership to parents and students. I can discuss the issues and work with those involved to come to a decision quickly and efficiently.

I have also worked on two School Advisory Committees. These are more local school committees that work closely with the principal to make decisions affecting the local school. These are smaller committees that are composed of teachers, parents and school personnel.

Serving on these committees has given me leadership skills. They have helped me see the perspective of all involved in these discussions. I have been exposed to the policy making process as well as board policy making and the Florida Statutes. I have learned that it is not always easy for a committee of stakeholders form varying backgrounds to agree on all aspects of a decision. I have learned that a respectful negotiation process and understanding each member of a committee’s position can help in the negotiation process. I have an understanding of each of these guiding principles that is necessary to be a successful member of our school board.


District 3

Steven Sweet

I have been involved on many operational planning and operational review committees as a manager in the Postal Service.  I was on a select committee in 1991 -1992 that was tasked with helping develop operational plans for the new optical character reader (barcodes) that is now commonplace and operational. On a local level I was a member of our Rainbow Springs Property Owner Association for two years.  I have served on various church committees over the years.

My experiences on all of these committees is the need for teamwork and cooperation.

My experience on all these various committees was rewarding and each committee has a different dynamic, and a different approach is needed to be effective.  Teamwork is the common denominator that is vital to any committee or board.  Communication and trust of fellow members is necessary in any collective endeavor. Commitment coupled with personal effort is foundational to any board/committee sucess.

I believe I can be a positive influence and am motivated to help the Marion County School District improve and give our best to the students and community.  Staying focused on the core mission of the school board and being proactive is necessary.  Knowledge, teamwork, and hard work combined   with the will to achieve our goals will lead Marion County School Board to success.

Eric Cummings, who is also running for district 3 did not answer this question.


District 5

Dr. Sarah James

In college, I was a member of leadership in my sorority.  I helped with fundraising for their annual philanthropy that benefited St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  During this time, I learned to work collaboratively with my sisters to raise funds for a charitable cause and grew to truly understand the importance of servanthood.

As a business woman, I have been a member of Business Networking International and the local Chamber of Commerce and Economic Partnership.  Both of these organizations have allowed me to learn and grow as a business leader and master the craft of public speaking.  Through participation in these organizations, I have also been offered many opportunities to speak on leadership techniques and strategies to help other business men and women master the art of leadership.

Lastly, I own and operate a private preschool in Ocala that has a business partnership with Madison Street Academy.  Through this business partnership, I am able to facilitate volunteer opportunities for the staff and students.  In addition, I have the honor of supporting a variety of community endeavors including Feed the Need, the Rock program, Down for Donuts, and other philanthropic events.

Taylor Smith, who is also running for district 5 did not answer this question.