TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Ryan Petty, the father of a student killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting, to Florida’s State Board of Education on Tuesday, filling a vacancy that’s been open for a year.
Petty, a senior executive of Cable & Wireless Communications, has been active in government since his daughter, Alaina, was among the 17 people murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. He came to Tallahassee to lobby state leaders to pass a landmark bill responding to Parkland, and he was later named to serve on the commission charged with analyzing the tragedy and making recommendations to lawmakers. He also ran for a seat on the Broward County School Board, but lost.
“It was a bit of a surprise when I got a call from the governor,” Petty said. “I know how important education is to him and we’ve had a number of conversations about it. I was just honored that he thought of me and I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and digging in and figuring out how I can contribute.”
He’s been busy touring the country giving presentations with the U.S. Secret Service, which just released a report on 41 targeted school violence incidents between 2002 and 2017. Accompanied by Tony Montalto and Max Schachter, also fathers of children who died in the Parkland shooting, they’ve sold out venues in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. A Miami event is planned next month.
Petty will bring his perspective on school safety to the board of seven, but hopes his reach will go beyond that.
“What I’ve learned is the climate and culture in many of our public schools is a challenge,” he said. “If you have a sub-optimal educational environment for our students, they’re not going to achieve our objectives. And our teachers unfortunately can’t do what they love to do. We have some problems there that need to be adjusted and resolved.”
Petty is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, and like Trump, is outspoken on Twitter. During his race for school board, the Sun Sentinel noted that Petty has made several controversial tweets, including some that disparaged public schools or took jabs at public employee unions. At the time, Petty told the newspaper that he regretted some of the tweets but others were taken out of context.
A different Parkland father, Andrew Pollack, was appointed to the Board of Education by then-Gov. Rick Scott, as part of a slew of appointments made shortly before Scott left office. He served in that capacity for one meeting, before DeSantis retracted 46 of Scott’s appointments in January 2019.
Pollack’s seat has remained empty since then, and he has since moved to Oregon.
Petty’s appointment must be confirmed by the Florida Senate, but he can serve on the board in the meantime.