Roy Terry and Jen Mitchell elected to Collier County School Board
Roy Terry and Jen Mitchell were elected to the Collier County School Board on Tuesday in a win that will expand the politically moderate board majority.
Terry, the incumbent, received 30,347 votes, or 52 percent, to reclaim his District 5 seat for a third term, according to unofficial results. His opponents Darlene Alvarez and Mary Ellen Cash, the most conservative candidate, received 12,121 votes, or 21 percent, and 15,535 votes, or 27 percent, respectively.
Mitchell, who will replace Erika Donalds to represent District 3, came away with 31,020 votes, or 55 percent, compared with her opponent Kathy Ryan, who received 25,619 votes, or 45 percent, according to unofficial results.
“I’m super excited. I’m ready to get to work,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, 44, graduated from Purdue University in 1996 with a degree in elementary education and moved to Naples the following year. After teaching for one year at Naples Park Elementary, she left to start a family and earn her real estate license.
The mother of four ran on the platform of “a mom who loves our public schools.”
She said one of her biggest priorities will be to figure out a better way to attract and retain good teachers.
“We’ve got to pay them more and allow them more autonomy in the classroom. We need to treat them like the experts they are,” she said.
Terry, 75, has represented District 5 on the School Board since 2010 and has been a Collier resident for almost 40 years. During that time he has been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, coach and athletic director.
Terry, who emphasized his experience throughout his campaign, said he looks forward to continuing the momentum he’s helped to establish over the last couple years.
“I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a great board that’s going to work together.”
Terry said he hopes to expand the district’s trade and vocational training programs and increase the school from seven to eight period blocks to allow students to take more elective classes.
District 1’s Jory Westberry ran unopposed and will replace Kelly Lichter in November.
A Collier resident since 1989, Westberry, 69, worked for the Collier school district for a quarter-century, including 14 years as Tommie Barfield Elementary’s principal.
Westberry has taught at Pine Ridge Middle and Oakridge Middle, where she earned a Golden Apple award for distinguished teaching, and served as assistant principal at Golden Gate Elementary.
“I know there will be challenges, but with a collaborative group I know we can make positive changes and work toward the betterment of teachers and students,” she said.
Victor Dotres, of District 3, dropped out of the race in June.
This year’s School Board race was a stark contrast to those of years past: Discussions at forums were civil, the candidates were in agreement on nearly every issue, and there have been no accusations as to who is a “real Republican” — a topic that dominated the 2016 race.
Throughout their four-year terms, Lichter and Donalds have brought a conservative perspective to the board; they pushed for the district to share capital funding with charter schools and backed a group of far-right education advocates in their mission to rid schools of textbooks they said “indoctrinate” students with lessons about Islam, evolution and human-induced climate change.
Their views have often put them on the losing side of 3-2 votes. The pair’s replacements, Westberry and Mitchell, however, have far less conservative views that are more in line with the rest of the board, and their election will likely bring about a string of unanimous votes.
Though the political battle over the local School Board may be over for now, the county’s ultraconservative groups are refocusing their efforts on the state, and Collier board members may be forced to reckon with state legislation they disagree with.
The new board members with be sworn in Nov. 20 at their first School Board meeting.