School officials expect McNealy to speak up
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 9:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 9:22 p.m.
Alachua County school officials said Wednesday they look forward to having a new face on the School Board in two weeks but will miss an old friend.
Voters elected Leanetta McNealy on Tuesday, where she finished ahead of incumbent and longtime board member Barbara Sharpe.
Superintendent Dan Boyd said he looks forward to working with McNealy, who served as principal of Duval Elementary from 1995 to 2009.
"We don't select just anybody in this school district to be a principal," Boyd said.
He said he has enjoyed working with Barbara Sharpe during the 20 years they've known each other.
"I have always admired the many years of service that she has given the school district," he said. "I always thought she was a classy lady."
Board member Carol Oyenarte also wished McNealy the best as she starts her term, adding that while it is sad to say goodbye to Sharpe, whom she's known for more than 20 years, it comes with the territory when sitting on a publicly elected board.
"It's public office," Oyenarte said.
McNealy said Wednesday she was still reeling from the election, though she hasn't stopped thinking about the ideas she has, like holding a forum for Alachua County public school students to express their concerns with the school system.
It would be good to set up a time, once every three months, that students can come together to voice what they think about what's going on in schools, she said.
Board member Eileen Roy, who supported McNealy during her campaign, said she thinks McNealy's experience as a teacher and principal in Alachua County will serve her well on the dais.
"She's open-minded," Roy said. "When something's wrong, she speaks out."
McNealy will be sworn in at the Nov. 20 meeting of the School Board, at which point the board will also elect a new chair and vice chair.
Roy, who has served two terms on the board and will begin a third after running unopposed this year, has been nominated for both chair and vice chair by fellow board member Gunnar Paulson the past two years. Both times, other members were nominated and elected.
Roy said she's been embarrassed in the past because of the attention she's received for having never been elected to either post by a majority of her peers, but she said it won't stop her from speaking up during meetings when she feels it is appropriate.
"I have spoken out on things that were wrong," she said. "People on the administrative side of things don't really like that."
Roy said she feels McNealy won't shy away from that mode of thinking.
"I think that Dr. McNealy will ask questions," she said. "And that's what you should do.
McNealy will join Paulson and Roy as School Board members openly supported by the Alachua County Education Association.
Boyd said having such support can be a double-edged sword because there should be clear differences between labor and management.
"When you are closely supported by a labor union, where do you say, ‘Thank you very for your support; I'm now management,' " he asked.
McNealy said her relationship with the ACEA won't be a detriment because she has worked in Alachua County as both a union member when she was a teacher and a non-union member when serving as an administrator.
"I can speak strongly because I've seen both sides," she said.
Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.