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Local mother Liz Barker announces campaign for Sarasota School Board

Written by on Thursday, August 17, 2023

The race for the District 2 seat on the Sarasota School Board is already heating up. At least two candidates are currently seeking the job: incumbent Karen Rose and former school psychologist Liz Barker.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: August 16, 2023


Official Transcript

Johannes Werner: The elections are more than a year away, but the race for one School Board seat in Sarasota is already heating up. Ramon Lopez was at the Sarasota School Board meeting yesterday to gauge reactions.

Liz Barker: I’m Liz Barker. I’m a mom of four kids in Sarasota County Public Schools. I am a former educator. And as of this morning, I am also a candidate for the District 2 School Board seat. [Cheers] I’m running because our families in Sarasota deserve to have board members who are trustworthy and transparent. It’s time to find common ground, support the rights of all parents and support our teachers in Sarasota County.

Host: There’s a race on for Sarasota County’s District 2 School Board seat. At least two candidates say they are seeking the job, including incumbent Karen Rose. The election will be held in August, 2024. Liz Barker, a mother of three public school students, filed on Tuesday for the District 2 seat currently held by Karen Rose. Rose has confirmed her intent to run for reelection.

There could be more candidates, however. Far right organizers have hinted about recruiting another challenger to Rose, a Republican, following her support for hiring new school Superintendent Terry Connor. Now a stay-at-home mom, she says she’ll draw from her past experience as a school psychologist. She’s also the president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Lake View Elementary.

She is concerned that none of the current School Board members have children attending Sarasota County Public Schools. She says that’s not right.

LB: Well, I bring the perspective of a parent, a parent who has children who actually attend Sarasota County Public Schools, and one who’s deeply involved and invested in education. And then I also bring my experience as a professional educator.

Host: If elected, Barker says she will concentrate on student achievement and teacher support. She says the culture war distractions need to be kept out of the boardroom so that district educational priorities are the focus of each school board meeting.

LB: I think they’re far too focused on issues that divide us and distract us from the true work that needs to be done, and the true workplace is focusing on student achievement, and narrowing the achievement gap. And when we’re so distracted with our cultural issues, we can’t do that hard work.

I intend to bring the focus back to student achievement and to work together as a community and to focus on the things we can all agree on, because there are a lot of things we can agree on. And as parents, it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on. You all want your children to be successful and to graduate from school, ready to be a successful, happy adult.

Host: Barker says alleviating the teacher shortage and eliminating divisive politics and distractions that do not serve children is critical. She believes parents have the right to decide what books are appropriate for their children, while also saying that there must be literacy-rich classrooms with a wide variety of books. Students deserve a fact-based fully rounded education.

LB: Hearing about parental rights. What about my rights? What about my children’s rights? Don’t they have the right to have a high-quality, literacy-rich education and have access to a wide variety of books and materials? It’s time that every parents rights be respected.

And what about our teachers? They’ve gotten lost in the political rhetoric. The majority of teachers in Sarasota County report feeling unsupported and fearful of the current school board. We have to change the climate for them, because fearful teachers are not effective instructors.

Host: Barker would be a rookie School Board member.

LB: I’ve never been on a school board before, but in my professional experience, my job was to build bridges between families, teachers, school professionals, and students to create safe and healthy learning environments for all children. So I feel confident that I can be a bridge builder.

Host: Barker rates her chances for winning her campaign.

LB: I think our community is ready for a change, our community is ready to come together, our community has signaled over and over again that we’re tired of the politics and we want a board who will put our children first.

Host: Parker says Sarasota County must be represented by School Board members who demonstrate transparent, accountable leadership. She says the current School Board is focused on playing extremes and leaving the decision making to Tallahassee, not Sarasota.

LB: As a former school psychologist, I spent a great deal of time helping students with a wide variety of behavioral, social and emotional needs. I’ve become increasingly concerned as social and emotional learning is repeatedly vilified in this county. Education does not occur in a vacuum. It would be great if children came to school every day prepared to learn without any other worries or outside factors, but that is simply not realistic.

Teachers and support staff must be prepared to help students who may be experiencing any number of environmental stressors. Part of preparing our children to be successful after graduation involves teaching them the social and emotional skills they will need as adults. Employers report that having a growth mindset, empathy and active listening skills are all highly marketable. These are the same skills that allow our students to be effective learners in the classroom.

Our families and educators deserve to be represented by school board members who will make decisions based on the best interest of students and not on politically charged rhetoric. This community needs board members who are trustworthy and transparent. Parents of children in our schools deserve to have a voice and a seat at the table when it comes to educational decision making. It is time for us to put aside the distractions and political visions and bring the focus back to student success. It is time that the rights of all parents and students be respected. It is time to support our teachers and work with them instead of against them.

It is for these reasons that I filed this morning to run for the District 2 School Board seat. I know that together, we can be agents for change in our communities and schools, and I hope to serve in that capacity as a School Board member who represents all families in Sarasota County.

Host: This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm