The First Unofficial "Debate" with Nancy Robbinson

The First Unofficial "Debate" for School Board Chair of Orange County


I am caught in a rather peculiar pickle these days regarding the School Board District 7 Race. I am a Facebook Friend of all three candidates and I am remaining neutral in their race...encouraging them to get their message out in order to win over voters by their qualifications and what they believe and stand for regarding education.

Their names are:

Melissa Mitchell Byrd

Pastor Todd Lamphere

Eric Schwalbach

I've known each of them for awhile, and you may even see me with one or more of them on the campaign trail from time to time...Please understand, even if I am with them because of our friendship, I am still neutral in their race, and I encourage all of my FB friends to research each candidate and get to know them.

That being said, I was recently invited to a meeting of sorts with one of my opponents, Nancy Robbinson. Eric Schwalbach is in constant communication with School Board members to try being about change, and he had set up a meeting with Nancy on President's day at the Einstein Bagel off Edgewater Road. I don't recall if Nancy wanted to meet with Eric and me, or if she just wanted to meet with Eric and I got invited by Eric to come along, or what, but Nancy knew that I was coming.

It seemed like an odd meeting to have. I had only been in the School Board Chair race for less than a week, and what would we have to talk about? Eric seems to be good at setting up these odd, uncomfortable meetings. I decided to attend at the last minute, and showed up right on time, and as I walked into the restaurant, I could see that they were already talking.

I approached and said, "Hello." Nancy shook my hand and introduced herself as Nancy Robbinson, as if she didn't know me or I didn't know her. I replied, "I know you, Nancy. When I was the District Athletic Director, we worked on a few things together. You were the one that first brought up the issue of girls' lacrosse players not wearing helmets and you wanted to know why. I answered a few of the emails you sent me on that."

As I sat down, I was wondering how this "conversation" was going to go. Eric began by thanking Nancy for meeting with us. Eric began be expressing the fact that he wanted change, and that's why he was running. We talked about low teacher morale in our school district.

Eric asked me to say something about the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system that the School District uses. Nancy mentioned that the state requires each district to have a researched-based teacher evaluation system. I agreed that such a system is required by the state, but how we implement it is on us. I brought up the fact that I presented clear proof that the district was putting pressure on administrators to lower teacher evaluation scores.

Nancy replied by saying the issue was brought up in an Orlando Sentinel article at the time and the person responsible got his hand slapped for it. I went on to mention that administrator promotions were also being determined by which administrators gave tougher scores, which tends to encourage administrators to give lower scores if they want to move up quicker. I said, "I am sure that pressuring administrators to stay within a certain range was not negotiated by the teachers' union. Lower scores affect teacher bonuses.

At this point, Nancy asked me, "Do you want a change in Superintendent?" I replied, "No, I want a change in the Superintendent's way of thinking."

I then mentioned an article that clearly expressed what I would hope our Superintendent would say to our's a quote from the article:

"At the school’s orientation before classes began in the fall, her superintendent spoke about the importance of human relationships, above all else. Not test scores. Not real estate values tied to test scores. No, he spoke compassionately about how everything follows from developing and fostering productive relationships within the district."

I love that...that's what it is all about. I guarantee you that they aren't experiencing teacher shortages in that school. In fact, I would wager that the best of teachers want to move there. Talk about winning the teacher-talent war. And great teachers lead to great schools that bring benefit to all students. Anyways, Here's the article if you are interested:

I mentioned to Nancy that She needs to read that article.

I also mentioned to Nancy a recent conversation I had with a teacher on my campus in which the teacher told me I was bad for the CTA. I responded by asking, "Why?" The teacher replied, "With you here at this school, teachers don't feel like they need to join the CTA." She went on to say that there had been previous administrators at the school that had teachers lining up and signing up to join the CTA...but it wasn't that way with me."

I told Nancy that we can't point to the state on that...we have to own the behavior of our administrators...that's on us. Nancy agreed that the Principal and administrative team makes a difference.

At some point in all of our back and forth, Nancy looked right at me and said, "I'm going to beat you. You are not going to win. I have more money. If you really want to be on the School Board you need to switch to District 7 and run where you have name recognition." I was a bit offended by her direct attempt to intimidate me with her overconfidence in money. I know money is important, but don't show all your cards at once. All I can say is she must not have done her homework on me. When you say something like that to me, it makes me all the more don't give a former athlete and coach a direct pregame pep talk to bounce around in their brain.

Technically speaking, there isn't even a District 7 race for School Board yet because Christine Moore does not have to officially file a letter of intent to resign until 10 days before the qualifying date, so if she is not completely confident that she can with her County Commissioner race against Fred Brummer, she may decide to pull out of that race and just keep her School Board seat for another couple of years.

If the thought of switching to District 7 when Christine files her letter was floating around in my head prior to our meeting, it was gone now, vaporized in the aftermath of Nancy's confidence.

I told Nancy that I felt the School Board Chair seat needs a stronger voice than hers. I mentioned that with all the negative stuff happening in Tallahassee, the Chair needs to be able to build consensus and resist the attack on education. I just don't see her able to be the strong voice that is needed.

At this point, Eric then chimed in and presented Nancy with an offer. "How about you back out of the Chair race and just keep your district seat that you have for 2 more years, and if the three of us are on the School Board, we can bring about great changes."

I had to laugh...Nancy did too. Why would an incumbent who has raised $71,000 back out of a race? Nancy was shaking her head and smiling as she responded, "I'm not quitting the race...I'm going to win." At least Eric tried. I guess if Nancy had the gumption to ask me to enter Eric's race to win that seat, Eric certainly had the right to ask Nancy to back out of her race.

Nancy explained that the business people were very nervous about the changes that were coming to the School Board in the upcoming election. I understand what Nancy was saying, but she doesn't understand that I am far more pro-business than she is, I guarantee it, and the fact that all those OCPS Business Vendors that have dropped $1,000 checks into her campaign account doesn't phase me or make me believe she guaranteed a win. The Business Force of Orlando group liked me during my last interview with them, and they said they wanted a relationship with me in the future because they saw my passion for education, but they thought my message needed to be taken to Tallahassee. I will get another chance to convince them that I'm the man for the job this year. The last time I interviewed with them they barely knew me. I look forward to meeting them again. The school community and the business community have to work hand-on-hand to build healthy communities. I've learned a lot about jobs and industry needs while currently working as an Assistant Director for Orange Technical College. We are in the business of developing tomorrow's workforce, and we need the input from the business and industry community in order to stay informed and relevant. My business side will come out during this campaign.

Eric mentioned that I had the support of the teachers. Nancy replied by saying, "Teachers don't vote." I'm not aware of the data analysis she has conducted to form that conclusion, but it's a sad day when a School Board member would say something like that out loud, no matter how true it is. Teachers also can't drop fat-daddy checks in her campaign account like the OCPS vendors can. There's nothing illegal about OCPS vendors giving to the campaign accounts of School Board members.Coaches, Athletic Directors, and Principals can't take anything from OCPS Vendors unless they want to be terminated. School Board members are allowed to receive $1,000 from an individual, and then another $1,000 business donation if the same person owns a business. I learned this discrepancy during my last run for school board. If ocps Vendors want to hedge their bets and give matching donations to my campaign account, no hard feeling will be harbored once I win. 😃 Just hard feeling will be harbored toward any OCPS Vendor either way... business is business...Just do your homework and don't bet on the wrong horse.

Eric is not particularly keen on taking money from companies that receive OCPS checks for services rendered. He made this known. Nancy replied that you should take money from whoever is offering it. You need money to win. She is right to a certain extent, I found that out during my last campaign. But I still believe the message is more important than the money, and so I keep shouting message for all to hear.

I had to leave early for another appointment, so I left them talking in the parking lot. It was an interesting initial clash of ideas. From what I know of Nancy, she is a nice person, and I don't see the need to attack her. I'm not running against her, I'm running for my ideas and priorities in education. I cant wait to follow up with some other questions once we get into a more formal debating environment.

If you you want to know more about my campaign or you want to donate online, please visit my website...

Thanks for your help

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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, Non-Partisan, for Orange County School Board Chair


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