NAPLES — It is fitting that Roy Terry’s first School Board meeting will be in front of the people he was chosen to represent.
Even though those people didn’t get a say in hiring him.
Terry will make his Collier County School Board debut Thursday , when the board hosts a dialogue workshop at 3:30 p.m. at the Immokalee Technical Center, 508 N. Ninth St., Immokalee. The meeting is to give the residents of Immokalee a chance to speak with School Board members and Superintendent Dennis Thompson about questions or concerns they have about schools in the community.
“We are going to be listening to them and seeing what the Immokalee community wants and how we can make the schools out there in Immokalee better,” Terry said.
The Immokalee meeting should be a breeze compared to the angry parents he will face later this month, as the School Board prepares for a final vote on the district’s rezoning plans.
Terry acknowledged that it is an emotionally charged issue, having seen it first-hand after attending the district’s community forums about the rezoning. But as to his thoughts, Terry said he is still studying the whole situation.
“At the high school level, there is the need to rezone, whether we have the class size amendment or not,” he said. “There is a need to get students to Lely and Golden Gate high schools, to get those student populations up.”
That said, Terry said he believes the district is moving “a bit too fast.” He said he believes starting the rezoning with the incoming freshmen might be the best solution to the problem.
Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Terry last week to fill the District 5 School Board vacancy created by the retirement of Richard Calabrese, whose term ends Nov. 15. Calabrese announced his plans to resign in October, citing health issues.
Although School Board members run from a particular district, they are elected by voters countywide. District 5 includes Golden Gate Estates and Immokalee.
“Roy has been a tremendous leader throughout his career in the classroom and as a coach,” Crist said in a statement last week. “I am confident that he will continue to be devoted to developing the talent of today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs in his new position on the board.”
Calabrese said he was surprised Crist chose Terry, who is running for the School Board seat in District 5, saying that he didn’t think the governor would appoint someone running for the seat to the seat.
“I think it is a political move (on Crist’s part) to get the teacher vote,” Calabrese said. “But, I think Roy Terry is a gentleman and a nice man. The couple of times I have interacted with him, he was very pleasant with me. I just hope he has the stomach or gumption for the job. I hope he stands up to the superintendent.”
Terry, 68, has 31 years of experience in the Collier County Public School System. He was principal of Palmetto Ridge High School from 2003 to 2009 and principal and assistant principal at Lely High School from 1992 to 2003. He was an assistant principal at East Naples Middle School from 1988 to 1989, athletic director at Naples High School from 1984 to 1988 and a teacher and coach at Naples High School from 1978 to 1984.
Terry is not the only School Board member who has experience working in Collier County Public Schools. School Board Vice Chairwoman Julie Sprague was a teacher at Gulf Coast High School until she was elected last year.
But, he is the only board member who has experience both as a teacher and an administrator on the School Board, which puts him in the position of having been on both sides of the fence.
“I have experienced all sides of the issue. I can look at it through a teacher’s eyes, though an administrator’s eyes, through an athletic director’s eyes. And both of my kids went to school, so I can see it through a parent’s eyes. Hopefully, all those experiences come together and you make the right decisions,” he said.
When appointed, Terry said it was important to him that the people of Collier County know that he will listen and that he will work to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the school district and the children.
“I believe we have an outstanding school system here. Can we do better? If we all work together, we can do better,” he said.
When asked if there was a specific area where he thought the district could do better, he said morale was something that the district needed to focus on.
That seems to sit well with some of his constituents. Cal Boggess, president of the Collier County Education Association — which represents the district’s teachers, said the union is encouraged by Terry’s appointment.
“Roy’s experience in (Collier County Public Schools) as a teacher, coach, and principal for the last 31 years makes him not only the obvious choice for this temporary appointment but also for the election next fall. We sat across from Roy at the bargaining table a number of times and while we did not always agree, we knew that his positions were based on what he felt was right and not on political expediency,” Boggess wrote in an e-mail. “As a principal at a number of different high schools, Roy always treated teachers with the professionalism they deserved and which is so sorely lacking in the district today. We are confident that Roy will help bring back the integrity, professionalism, and respect that this district once practiced with pride.”