Bridget Ziegler’s dual-track approach
Written by WSLR News on Saturday, September 2, 2023
The Chair of the Sarasota School is also a paid employee of an organization that trains conservative activists to advocate for school privatization.
By Ramon Lopez
Original Air Date: September 1, 2023
Johannes Werner: The chair of the Sarasota School Board, which is in charge of public schools in this county, also is a paid employee of an organization that trains conservative activists to advocate, among others, for school privatization. Ramon Lopez has a look at how Bridget Ziegler’s dual-track approach is drawing both scrutiny and praise.
Crowd: [Chanting] Bridget Zielger, go away! Ho ho, hey hey! Bridget Zielger, go away! Ho ho, hey hey!
Host: The recent grand opening of a new training center in Sarasota for the Arlington, Virginia-based conservative Leadership Institute has drawn both support and criticism from local citizens because of who is in charge there. Bridget Ziegler is chair of the Sarasota County School Board. She is also the salaried head of the Leadership Institution Training Center. Some see her double-dipping as a conflict of interest.
As Vice President of School Board Training Programs at the Leadership Institute, Ziegler will be training college students to organize, run for and take over local public school boards nationwide. The institute strives to produce a new generation of conservative public policy leaders committed to traditional values. She has worked to raise awareness of perceived indoctrination that is occurring within K-12 public schools. At a recent Sarasota County School Board meeting, retired Lieutenant Colonel Duffy Smiley defended Ziegler’s job at the Leadership Institute.
Duffy Smiley: I’d like to talk about Mrs. Ziegler’s position with the Leadership Institute and some people saying that it’s a conflict of interest. I believe quite the opposite is true. As VP of the Leadership Institute Board Member Education [program], Mrs. Ziegler plays a role in educating board members across the country. The Leadership Institute opened its headquarters for board member education in Sarasota. That makes Sarasota the National Center of Board Member Education. That’s a win for Sarasota and it’s a win for Mrs. Ziegler. The bottom line is, her leadership in the Leadership Institute compliments her role here as chairman of the Sarasota school, and enhances Sarasota’s influence both locally and nationwide.
Host: But Thomas Rashied thought otherwise.
Thomas Rashied: When I found out that Bridget Ziegler, a school board member whose children don’t even attend public schools was the Vice President of a right-wing training facility to politicize our children by training people to take over school boards and destroy public schools, I was furious.
Host: Ziegler was at the training center for the ribbon cutting and spoke about her strong beliefs in limited government, parental rights, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. Ziegler worked with Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice as a co-founder of Moms For Liberty. She remains a vocal supporter of Moms For Liberty and its mission, and Ziegler is strongly committed to her crusade.
Bridget Zielger: Now we se a movement across the country and I will tell you, this is my favorite part: usually there’s like, the clock gets worn out. Like with parents or whoever it is, or whatever the issue, you know, they try to just wear the clock out. But the fact is that the parents didn’t give up and it was awesome. And it takes courage in a tremendous way, and you have lots of defeats, and then you have victories, and then you have more defeats, and then you have more defeats and then you have a couple of victories. And our job is to ensure that we have community and we create this network where, when you have those moments, like I had Erika and I had Tina, and I still have those moments where I feel like you have to scoop me up off of the floor, we have to have that because that is the only way we’ll have the resiliency to actually affect the change that our children so desperately deserve.
Host: This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.