Superintendent and Pine View alumna Lori White will be retiring Feb. 28, 2017, leaving Todd Bowden—executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education for Sarasota County and director of Suncoast Technical College—to take her place. Choosing Bowden as the next superintendent has been a long and thought-out process. However, the decision continues to grow longer as multiple sexual harassment allegations have been filed against Bowden.
Following the announcement of the finalists, the public was encouraged to attend a reception at Riverview High School’s cafeteria Oct. 13 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. At the event, individuals were able to become more familiar with the final candidates, and learn more about their positions to make a decision. Additionally, participants were able to write their final thoughts regarding the candidates to the board to help them take into account the public’s opinions when making the appointment.
On Oct. 18, the School Board of Sarasota County Schools held an afternoon meeting to vote for the new superintendent. The School Board voted upon Todd Bowden, and Bowden thus accepted the position enthusiastically. However during the meeting, the School Board did not discuss the internal report on sexual harassment allegations that Bowden himself previously released Oct. 4 in order to be clear and up-front about what happened.
Before the 97-page report was released by Bowden, the witnesses, two women who worked with Bowden at Suncoast Technical College, were interviewed beginning Sept. 15. An internal investigator stated that the allegations from these women were inconclusive and unfounded. Thus, the allegations were not considered during the superintendent decision.
The next Sarasota County School Board meeting occurred Nov. 1, and was heavy with questions regarding the accusations against Bowden.
The meeting quickly escalated as board members began expressing their opinions, and Brown even had to gavel the session to order. Multiple women, including those who made the allegations against Bowden, spoke out against his actions and the lack of attention to the sexual harassment report. Due to this lack of attention, all three women will be hiring lawyers and taking a legal route. One concerned community member stood up, deeply criticized the School Board and was then asked to exit the meeting.
Math teacher Cathy Hollar attended the Nov. 1 meeting in support of the women who filed the reports against Bowden. Hollar and many others wore red to the meeting in order to express their fervent support. According to Hollar, the meeting heated up quite quickly with positive encouragement for the aforementioned women. “I am so disappointed in our School Board,” Hollar said. “They rushed their vote and we will all have to pay for the backlash.”
Through all of the strife, the School Board proceeded to approve Bowden’s employment contract during the Nov. 1 meeting. Since then, there are still concerned Sarasota citizens both supporting and criticizing Bowden, and the situation continue to be discussed as White’s retirement approaches and the legal cases against Bowden move forward.