Profile: Collier School Board candidate Rosanne Winter wants more openness

■ This is one of several stories about Collier School Board candidates on the fall ballot..

Rosanne Winter doesn’t have a catchy slogan for the points she wants to make on the campaign trail.

The Collier County School Board District 1 candidate admits she doesn’t like talking in sound bites. Instead, she prefers long conversations about the issues surrounding the Collier County School Board.

“I love talking about the issues and how we can make things better. .... This is a people business. People are not widgets,” she said. “We need leaders who understand that.”

Winter, 61, is running against current District 1 School Board member Pat Carroll and retired businessman Eric Cox for the seat.

District 1 encompasses East Naples and Marco Island, but School Board members are elected by voters countywide in nonpartisan races for four-year terms. The primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 24.

Winter said she decided to run after being frustrated by what she was reading in newspapers about the Collier County School Board and Superintendent Dennis Thompson. She said she also was encouraged by former Golden Apple teachers who wanted her to run.

“It was the tugging on my desire to make things better and a push to run from the teachers that convinced me,” she said.

Winter said she believes it’s time to put the public back in public education.

“We limit the time people have to speak at board meetings or we don’t allow them to speak at all,” she said. “We have committees that I have heard are committees in name only _ that the end result has already been decided. We need an open discourse between the administration, the public and the committees.”

School board candidate Rosanne Winter, right, talks with supporters during Politics in the Park on Wednesday at the Naples Hilton. The free event was held so the public could meet and talk with multiple candidates in one place before the primary election Aug. 24. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL

School board candidate Rosanne Winter, right, talks with supporters during Politics in the Park on Wednesday at the Naples Hilton. The free event was held so the public could meet and talk with multiple candidates in one place before the primary election Aug. 24. Lexey Swall/Staff

Winter said it is obvious that the Collier County School District doesn’t have a clear alignment of standards and evaluations in place.

“We need to set our standards high and measure our progress,” she said. “We have a strategic plan and it’s a good one. But it is not operational. We need to figure out a way to make these dreams come true. And there is a lot of hard work ahead.”

Winter, who has been in education for more than 25 years, said the problems Collier County is facing aren’t unique to the district.

“There is nothing in Naples that is not happening anywhere else,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we have a wholesale fix to the problem. We have to look at what’s worked elsewhere and tailor it to our needs. We need leaders who can do that.”

Winter, who is a former Naples High School principal, said she believes the district should use research and standards to determine what’s best for the Collier County School District.

“Everyone needs to be held accountable,” she said. “The board is held accountable by the voters. The superintendent needs to be held accountable by standards that are made public. ... Teachers need to be held accountable. Great teachers love to be held accountable because they know they can do it.”

Winter said she believes by basing decisions on research and standards, the excuses go away.

The Collier County School District has become less engaged with the community, Winter said, and she would work to ensure the board and the district were re-engaged.

“We need to reach out to every aspect of the community,” she said.

She knows of what she speaks.

Winter said she can recall that, in her first job as a principal, she didn’t want parents involved. It made her job difficult. When she got to Naples, she said, she embraced the parents and found success quickly by including everyone in the school community. She believes the district needs to embrace its community.

“We need to turn on the openness. We need to get out and talk to teachers and parents and leaders. You don’t have to take all of their advice. But it doesn’t work when you put it as us against them,” she said.

Of the questions she has been getting from voters, Winter said the one she gets the most is about firing Thompson. She said while she used to argue that a change of leadership is disruptive and often expensive, she believes a change is needed.

“It has become so evident to me that the man has burned all of his bridges with the parents, the teachers and the business community,” she said. “People do not have confidence in him. I hope the board can do it the correct way this time, not doing it behind closed doors. It’s about finding the right person through collaboration, through setting high standards and conducting a national search.”

Winter has been married to her husband, Bill, for 25 years. She has two daughters and three grandchildren.

In the end, Winter said, her job as a School Board member is to create an environment where children thrive.

“We need to do the hard work and spend money wisely,” she said. “(We should be about) less frills, more base.”

_ Connect with reporter Katherine Albers at www.naplesnews.com/staff/katherine-albers/

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