On Monday the local Democratic Party held a forum at City Hall for local candidates. At the forum current Superintendent Jackie Pons and candidate and current City Comissioner Scott Maddox stole the show with pointed jabs at each other.
Candidate Rocky Hanna was not allowed to participate because he is running as an independent.
Superintendent Jackie Pons began the debate by talking about his views on testing and his accomplishments.
He said “we have to stop the addiction to the tests” and stop the punitive teacher evaluations pushed down from the state.
He told the crowd that “we have accomplished a lot and the Florida Department of Education ranks us as an A district.” He said “we have improved graduation rates by 18% and African American grad rates have increased.”
Pons talked about losing $111 million during the economic downturn and how he and the School Board protected the classroom by not laying off any teachers.
And in a subtle jab at his opponent, he ended by saying “to do this job you need education experience.”
Candidate Scott Maddox began by laying out his education experience gained through significant volunteer efforts such as heading PTO’s, substitute teaching and coaching sports teams.
He told the crowd that he pushed hard as a Democratic Party leader for the class size amendment.
Maddox discussed education related initiatives he has supported while on the City Commission. These initiatives involved the push for community schools and the use of Star-Metro to provide transportation for students who are unable to take advantage of the later start times recently approved by the School Board.
Maddox said “the way to succeed is to get resources down to the level on the ground where they are needed the most.”
And then he addressed Pons.
“I am compelled to run because there are problems…I am going to talk about the elephant in the room – we’ve got problems. I had to write them down I couldn’t remember them all.”
Maddox then listed what he viewed as a host of problems. He spoke of audits, a federal grand jury, FBI investigations and reminded the audience that two allies of the school superintendent were arrested for stealing and selling drugs. He said “we are in the million dollar range for criminal defense attorney’s.”
Acknowledging the district success, Maddox said to great applause, “We have an A district but not every body goes to an A school.”
He closed with a dagger.
“Our kids deserve a superintendent that cares as much about their well being as his political career.”
During his rebuttal Pons opened by saying, “I find it very interesting Mr. Maddox is talking about someone’s career in politics you know being a politician himself.”
He added, “this is the guy that ran your Democratic Party and had a $200,000 tax lien filed against it because they refused to pay their taxes so when he is talking about fiscal responsibility he has a record.”
He closed to great applause, by saying, “this rhetoric sounds very much like what you’re hearing in the Republican presidential primary.”
In response to the tax lien Maddox said, “I had two audits that said I was not at fault but leaders take responsibility and that is what I did.”
And then he talked about the continuing distractions with the School Board over the last two years and addressed another distraction by saying “you have all your high paid people from the district that are required to do campaign things like tonight.” A reference to School Board employees in attendance supporting Superintendent Pons.
Maddox closed by saying if he is proven wrong about the controversies surrounding the district over the last two years he will stop talking about it and move on.
But he added, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”