Seven years ago, I made a bad decision to become involved in a confrontation with the principal of Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School, where I served as a member of the School Advisory Council. Prior to that, I was employed at the school and recognized as an “Outstanding Servant” for my dedication to the students and school community. I still have this plaque among the many awards I have won.
To the actual incident, I started an e-mail campaign against the principal and sent messages about perceived problems to her direct supervisors, where I included the principal. From these messages strictly about her performance, I was accused of “cyberstalking” the principal because of those messages. Anyone familiar with my advocacy at that time also knows that I was a stern critic of the entire DCPS leadership team. When my case made it to court, every person in the courtroom, including the judge, insisted I was charged as retaliation for being vocal and that it was an abuse of power by the Duval County School Police Department as we all have a right to voice concerns. After a nearly yearlong battle with an Assistant State Attorney who told my attorneys he was under strict orders from his superiors to pursue this case strongly, it took him to resign for a better job and a new ASA, who apologized to me for the entire ordeal, to attempt to do the right thing. So exhausted from all of it, I accepted his offer to amend the charges to “Breach of Peace,” a violation of the municipal code.
With a lot more money and time, I could have chosen to fight this case as far as I needed to in the court system but I did not because I wanted to move beyond it.
Years later, I have found myself as a very passionate advocate who has matured and grown to work well with others in making sure children have equity. Since the incident, I have served as a founding member and former Vice President of the Friends of Northwest Jacksonville Schools, the group that mobilized our community to stop the privatization of Jackson, Raines, and Ribault high schools and North Shore K-8 School. I have served as the Chairman of the Ribault Area Advisory Council, where we gained 100% participation for the first time from all Ribault Area Schools. Sallye B. Mathis is included in these group of schools collaborating and working together sharing ideas.
As a candidate for public office, I have opened myself up to a lot of microscopic scrutiny so it is fair to publicize this information before anyone else does and tries to turn it into a negative. The positive thing about this is that something that was meant to deter me from ever making bold steps again did not scare me but it made me become a lot more mature about how to deal with those situations. It is a positive thing because I have not let it stop me from working and living as a productive citizen in the city where my family has called our home for four generations. Bad decisions are never a dead end but an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
At this point, It’s this simple for me–if you think I’m unworthy of your vote because of a bad decision I made as a teenager that’s fine but if you know our children and public education deserve a strong voice and you know the power of a second chance, please support for me.