Meet the Okeechobee County School Board candidates

OKEECHOBEE — Four candidates are seeking the School Board District 4 seat. They are Linda Baker, Amanda Fuchswanz, Levi Christian Johnson, and Mindy Schoppmeyer. School Board member India Riedel, who currently represents that district, is not seeking re-election. The qualifying fee for the non-partisan Okeechobee County School Board race is $1,100.24. School board terms are four years. Salary is $27,506 per year.

Malissa Morgan is seeking re-election to school board district 2 seat. She is currently unopposed.

Linda Baker

Linda Baker is one of four candidates seeking the School Board District 4 seat. School Board member India Riedel, who currently represents that district, is not seeking re-election.

Ms. Baker is the proud parent of two daughters, Ebony and Shante, who are both college graduates, one from University of North Florida and the other from Florida State University.

Linda Baker

Linda Baker

Ms. Baker is a graduate of the University of Florida. She studied Educational Leadership at South Eastern University. She is a Certified Teacher for ESE, English, Social Science, and Reading Endorsement, and a Grant Writer.

In 2016, she was named Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year. She was also a 2016 National Endowment Humanities Scholar Recipient.

She is a member of the Florida Reading Association.

Ms. Baker has more than 20 years experience as an educator. She is currently employed as a Reading Specialist/Teacher for the Washington County School Program at Okeechobee Youth Development Center. She has been with OYDC for three and a half years.

The candidate is a native Floridian, and is originally from Ocala.

She has lived in Okeechobee for three and a half years. She moved here to pursue a teaching position with the Washington County School Program.

This is her first attempt at running for public office.

“As an educator and teacher with over 20 years of classroom experience working with diverse populations of students, I have first-hand knowledge of the successes and barriers in today’s educational system,” she explained. “As your next District 4 School Board Representative, I will advocate for the educational issues that address the concerns of teachers, parents, and students of Okeechobee County. I am a teacher that knows best.”

If elected, she said she will spend as many hours as necessary to fulfill the role of District 4 School Board Representative.

Ms. Baker said she is the only certified teacher in school board race, which sets her apart from the other candidates.

“I have a history of leadership, experience, and knowledge in education. My expertise provides me with a greater insight for today’s students,” she stated.

She said she thinks the most important issue facing the school district is parental involvement in the classroom.

“I would like to engage parents in all aspects of students learning such as homework, testing, and performance,” she explained. “I would like to implement a texting communication alert system for students academic improvements and achievements for parents.”

The school board race is non-partisan, so all registered voters may vote in that race. The school board candidates will be on the ballot in the Aug. 30 primary.

If any of the four candidates receives more than 50 percent of the votes cast, that candidate will be declared the winner. If no candidates receives more than 50 percent, then a runoff election will be on the November ballot.
Deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 30 primary is Aug. 1.

Amanda Fuchswanz

Amanda Fuchswanz is a candidate for Okeechobee County School Board District 4.

Ms. Fuchswanz has been in Okeechobee for more than 10 years. She said she came here for a job opportunity.

“I have been working with children in Okeechobee for over 10 years,” she explained.

Amanda Fuchswanz

Amanda Fuchswanz

She is currently employed as a Children’s Mental Health Therapist with Hibiscus Children’s Center where she has worked for 8 years.

She also has a contract with Healthy Start to provide workshops to teen parents at the Okeechobee high school through a program that she helped create called “On Track.”

“My position as a children’s mental health therapist has allowed me to advocate for many children in the school system,” she said. “I have been able to attend IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings, behavioral interventions and even crisis calls. I have the opportunity to interact with school staff and work together to provide the best outcome for each child.

“I am privileged to have an insight into the educational needs of our children and teachers,” she explained.

She said she is willing to devote as much time as necessary to this position.

“I have a unique situation with my current position that allows me to be in the schools daily where I am able to talk with teachers and administration as well as witness day to day activities,’ she said.

Ms. Fuchswanz said she believes she is the best candidate for the job, because “I am an educated professional who has made a career out of caring for the children of Okeechobee. I take my position very seriously and strive to provide the best service possible to each child I work with. My goal is to give each child the encouragement and support they need to achieve success. I feel that my education, experience and training as well as my insight into day to day activities in the school system make me the best candidate for this position. I believe in hard work and value logical thinking, constructive communication and sound financial decisions.

“One of the most important challenges we face in Okeechobee County Schools is how we can effectively work together as teachers, administrators and parents to facilitate the most appropriate strategies for our students, effectively evaluating our students in a timely manner and providing them and our teachers with the necessary tools to alleviate the overwhelming pressures that they can experience,” she explained.

“We can be successful if we all work together to help our children develop the desire and motivation for long term success. As a school board member I think it is important to clearly understand the effects of the policies being implemented. In order to do this I would like to have an increased level of involvement with a more easily accessible open line of communication for parents and teachers to express their views.”

This is her first attempt at seeking public office.

Ms. Fuchswanz has a Master’s Degree in Human Services with a specialization in Social and Community Services. She also has a bachelor’s degree in both psychology and criminal justice.

“I have had extensive and ongoing training in topics related to child development, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health,” she explained. “I am also currently in the process of developing policies and procedures to begin a targeted case management program with Hibiscus Children’s Center.”

Ms. Fuchswanz has a daughter, Delaney, who is 8 years old.

Levi Christian Johnson

Levi Christian Johnson is a candidate for the District 4 seat on the Okeechobee County School Board.

“I am what most people refer to as ‘new blood’ with no big family ties in Okeechobee,” he explained. “I was born in Fort Myers and raised on Pine Island, Fla.

Levi Christian Johnson

Levi Christian Johnson

“After high school, I attended Airline Training Academy in Fort Lauderdale where I received my Private, Commercial, and Certified Flight Instructor Certificate as well as my Instrument Rating,” he explained. “It was with great honor and privilege to later work for Airline Training Academy as a Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor for numerous years teaching students how to fly airplanes.”

He later worked across the country where he met his fiancee, Samantha.

“Eventually Samantha and I decided it was time to settle and we moved to Okeechobee three years ago to raise a family in this beautiful friendly community,” he said.

He has been employed with Sunniland Aircraft for two years as an Aerial Applicator, also known as a crop duster. He also teaches as a flight instructor.

If elected, Mr. Johnson said he would make school board business a priority.

“I will be prioritizing my time and devoting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year. Anything less will be unsatisfactory,” he stated.

He has never held public office before.

Mr. Johnson said he understands the difficulties faced by students who come from low income homes.

“I wasn’t fortunate enough to be raised in a financially sound home,” he explained. “We lived in a single-wide trailer on a dead-end dirt road with a household income of less than $20,000 a year. To make it worse, I was diagnosed with a speech impairment that made learning and socializing difficult for me. I defied the odds, overcame the speech impairment and became successful as a crop duster and aviation instructor because teachers did not give up on me.

“I want to make sure every student in Okeechobee is given the same opportunity that I had,” he continued. “In my line of work, I only have one chance to be right and I have to be right the first time each and every time. My life and my students’ lives depend on it. I feel the same way about the students of Okeechobee. We have only one chance to shape their lives and we have to get it right the first time.

“I am an advocate for vocational training,” he stated. “I will advocate to expand our vocational programs that would help better prepare students for the workforce and give them skills that they need to succeed in the local community.”

He said the most important issue facing the Okeechobee County School District is the Florida Standards Assessment testing. “It doesn’t take a genius with college degrees to realize it is an inaccurate method of testing the students’ knowledge and ability. It’s also an inaccurate method to base merit pay for the teachers, which should be evaluated by the administrators,” he explained. “The students are being over tested to the point they lose interest in learning which leads to lower student achievement and a low graduation rate. Teachers morale are low and they are frustrated because they are no longer able to teach the students and must prepare them to pass a test.”

Mr. Johnson and his fiancee, Samantha, have a 9-month-old daughter, Ava. They are planning a fall wedding.

“I believe in transparency on the School Board and Ava will be attending public schools,” Mr. Johnson stated.

Mindy Schoppmeyer

Mindy Schoppmeyer is a candidate for the Okeechobee County School Board District 4 seat.

Ms. Schoppmeyer is a 1978 graduate of Boyd Anderson High School in Fort Lauderdale. She went on to study Business Management at Broward Community College. After moving to Okeechobee in 1981, she attended Indian River State College.

Mindy Schoppmeyer

Mindy Schoppmeyer

“Growing up, my family would spend nearly every weekend camping and fishing on Lake Okeechobee,” she said. “My father is a avid fisherman to this day. Eventually my parents built a weekend home here, When my brother and I graduated from high school, they decided to make Okeechobee their permanent home. I soon followed, and I am so happy I did. Okeechobee has been a wonderful place to live and raise my  boys.”

Ms. Schoppmeyer is employed at Pemaytetv Emahakv Charter School (PECS), where she worked as a substitute teacher for 9 years. In July 2015, she was offered a full time-dual position as the Director of the Wrap Around Program, as well as serving as a Middle School Paraprofessional in the middle school reading class.

“I am proud to say I work alongside the PECS Teacher of the Year,” she said.

“I feel blessed to be able to work with children in the preschool-kindergarten age level as well as the teens who are preparing to begin their high school journeys.”

“I have been very fortunate to have participated in several training classes and workshops where I am currently employed, PECS Charter School, Kagan Training, Cooperative Learning Structures and Trama-Inforned Training, for students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities, to name a few,” she explained.

Over the last 30 years. Ms. Schoppmeyer also worked in the family businesses, Porter’s Cleaners, Monogram Shop, Porter Properties, and Market Place Flea Market. She managed the daily operations at Market Place until the family decided to sell the business in 2015.

“I have a vast administrative background in budgeting, approving and monitoring contracts, bidding processes, hiring and supervising staff,” she said. “I have handled delicate legal responsibilities effectively and I believe with my business background along with my true love and passion for children, I can bring a positive attitude to the board. I am truly a team player.”

She said one challenge the school board currently faces is the positions open due to the retirement of several wonderful teachers. She said it is important for the district to find ways to attract and keep highly educated professional teachers.

Ms. Schoppmeyer has two sons, Nicholas and Cory, who are both graduates of Okeechobee High School and both went on to attend college.

“They are very successful in their adult lives,” she explained. “Nick is in business for himself and lives in South Florida. Cory is a Cross-Fit trainer and supplement distributor. He just purchased his first home right here in Okeechobee.”

This is her first attempt at seeking public office. She said she has always been involved in the community, as her parents instilled in her a desire to give back.

“I feel at this point in my life, I have the time that it takes to dedicate myself and I am so ready to do that,” she said.

“Kids in school today will hold jobs that haven’t even been created yet. We need to make sure they have everything they need to succeed,” she said. “I am committed to ensuring that they do!”

The school board race will be on the Aug. 30 primary ballot. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, a runoff will be held in November.

Other 2016 Okeechobee County races

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 1

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 3

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 5

Meet the Okeechobee County property appraiser candidates

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Sheriff

Primary Election Information

Local candidates seek elected office 3/27/16

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