1. Archive

School runoff elections focus on credentials // SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 4

Republican voters choosing between incumbent David Watson and Patience Nave in the Oct. 1 runoff election have clear differences in platforms to consider.

Nave, 65, has worked as a part-time community college instructor and has a resume that includes teaching and jobs in the private sector. She has a bachelor's and master's degree in English from West Kentucky University. She has been active in the local Republican party, her church and Citrus 20/20.

Watson, 50, a 12-year School Board member, is an access control manager for Florida Power Corp.'s nuclear operations training division and is a former high school teacher. He has worked in Army intelligence and special forces. Watson has a bachelor's degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College and a master's degree in education from Florida Atlantic University.

The runoff winner will face Democrat Jackie Evans in the November general election.

Here is a comparison of the Watson's and Nave's views on several key issues:

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: Nave has hit hard at the district's failings. Citing continuing shortages in classroom supplies, Nave says the district needs to refocus on its primary job, educating children.

Watson steadfastly defends the district's record of student achievement.

"It's like she believes that our schools are the armpit of our nation, but she's missing out on all of the standard types of things that are used to rate a school system," Watson argues.

He points to the district's continually high scores in standardized tests and to innovative programs such as those at Withlacoochee Technical Institute and the academies at the county's three high schools.

Nave has called on the School Board to improve curriculum and has been criticized by those who say that is not the board's job. Nave points to a state law that says the board is responsible for setting a district's lesson plan.

TEACHING CREATIONISM: Throughout her campaign, Nave has faced persistent questions about her possible connection with the Christian Coalition. Critics question her support of teaching creationism in public schools and her experiences as a missionary.

Nave says she has never been a missionary in a religious sense, although she has had a mission to teach English to non-native speakers. Nave says that she is a Christian. And though she is not a member of the Christian Coalition, some of her views mirror those of the conservative group.

As for the teaching of creationism, Nave says, "I'm a Christian and I believe in a biblical view of creation. But creationism is not a science. It's a philosophy and it has no place in the science curriculum.

"Evolution is also not hard science and I also question its place in science class," Nave says. These are philosophies, she says. "I think students should have the option to choose between the philosophies."

Watson says, "I think we should leave things just the way they are.

"Churches should take care of the religious part and schools should take care of the scientific part," he says.

SELF-ESTEEM AND SEX EDUCATION: Nave also wants parents to be more involved in making decisions about school lessons. And she says there is too much focus on student self-esteem as an ultimate goal rather than student achievement. Students with high self-esteem might not be able to perform as needed academically, she says.

"If we focus on the whole self-esteem thing, then we do not teach them. We set them up for failure," she said.

Nave supports programs such as the current abstinence-based sex education program run as an opt-in program, which means parents must grant written permission for their children to be included.

She said she disagrees with the philosophy that teachers know more than parents about what is best for their child.

"I think parents should have the opportunity to opt in," she said. "I don't think the schools should be the ones to decide when your child is ready for sex education."

Watson favors opt-out programs where parents can give permission for students to be excluded. He says the students who might most need programs such as sex education because their parents do not communicate with them are the ones who could be left out because permission forms are not returned.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION: Watson and Nave also disagree on alternative programs and alternative school.

Watson says students who disrupt classes often are the ones who lack self-esteem. The district needs to remove them from classrooms and put them in programs where they can be taught in some different way.

"It all depends on what your goals are for an alternative school," Watson says. "Punishment isn't going to help any . . . you want to give these students something so they can learn" and find their place as productive members of the community.

Nave thinks alternative schools should be punitive and students shouldn't want to go there. "I don't want us to build a great alternative school because I don't think this ought to be a reward," Nave says.

"If we do not set parameters and say these are the parameters for everyone, then we're teaching these children that there are no parameters," she said.

CONSTRUCTION FINANCING: Watson is more reluctant than Nave to consider bonds as a way to pay for the district's needed construction.

Over the years, Citrus has paid for schools as they are built. But studies have questioned whether the district can continue to build what it needs without more funds than are expected to be available.

"I still think we ought to pay as we go for as long as we possibly can" with bonding considered only as a last resort, Watson says.

Last week, Bill Ladkani, who was knocked out of the District 4 race in the September primary, announced he was supporting Watson in the runoff.

Ladkani was a critic of Watson, calling him a rubber stamp for the school administration. He accused him of not fixing problems in the district during his tenure on the board.

Now, Ladkani says Watson's "views and experience are the more supportable ones."

"I also want to remind my supporters and other voters that there will be an experience vacuum on the new board due to the number of vacancies that will be filled in the election," Ladkani says.