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Sarasota News Leader January 10, 2014 Page 32 John Craner, former chairman of the Greater The culture has to be changed, he added, with Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. an emphasis put on "a more moral foundation where we have commitments between men DeLeo pointed out that the members are not and women in marriage." "shrinking violets" and that they challenge the School Board and district staff on spending He told the audience, "If we don't want to do matters. For example, he said, the committee that, then I think we're just being lazy about led an initiative to reduce the school system's voting for a tax increase." healthcare costs. DeLeo also praised the district's chief operating officer, Scott Lempe, who is a retired Air Force officer. "This guy is a phenomenal manager who "runs the district like a business," DeLeo said. THE DATES Thaxton reminded the audience that absentee ballots will go in the mail on Feb. 18 in advance of the March 25 referendum, and early voting will be offered from March 10 to March 22. "I think the district is probably pretty well run for a school district," Thomson told the audi- When Thaxton asked for an explanation about ence, adding that no government organization the School Board's decision to continue holding the referendum in March — on the same is known for being run well. day as the Town of Longboat Key election for While he said he did not believe Sarasota dis- its commissioners — White said the School trict officials were involved in any financial Board in 2002 chose the March time frame for shenanigans, he maintained that the data he its second attempt to gain the extra tax. (A had found through research showed "you do summer referendum in 2000 failed.) To have not see an impact on educational achieve- changed the timing for this year, she added, ment from educational spending." would have meant the loss to the district of the $42 million in referendum money. The disTHE 'MORAL' FACTOR trict budget has to be ready by June 30, she Thomson also explained to the audience pointed out, according to state law. his view that the increasing number of sinMoreover, White pointed out, "There are actugle mothers; the rise in the divorce rate; the ally more citizens here in March [eligible to go uptick in the number of single-mother famito the polls]. They don't all choose to vote." lies with multiple children of different fathers, "none of whom are in the picture"; and chil- "It was March on purpose," Thomson said of dren living in "higher-crime and drug-ridden that 2002 School Board decision, noting that neighborhoods" have a much more negative fewer people vote in March elections than impact on student performance than a lack in November elections. (Sarasota County of funding. If people really want to improve Supervisor of Election Office records have student achievement, he said, "That is what confirmed that, The Sarasota News Leader has to be attacked." has reported in the past.) %

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