Health could change. Financial situation could change. She reserves the right to change her mind in the next year. But Sue Dickinson, who has been on the Flagler County School Board since 2000, said she is 90% sure she will retire before the November 2016 election, meaning that District 5 will have no incumbent in the next race.
Her main motivation for leaving, she said in a phone interview the morning of May 19, is that she has a 3-month-old grandson in Southwest Florida.
"He's a new little guy, so I'll be there to be part of his life," she said. She has two older grandkids whose childhoods she mostly missed, and the baby boy could be her last grandchild. She will also be 62 two weeks before the election and will have spent 33 years with the state of Florida, so her retirement should be secure — hopefully. In the event that she needs to find a job in Southwest Florida, she feels confident that her training as a nurse would enable her to do that.
Another consideration is that she will have served four terms, and that's enough. It's time for someone with new ideas to come on board.
"I think there is something to be said for term limits, so therefore, I really feel that it’s time," she said. She continued: "I will say that I am trying to find someone that would take my place and ... continue to support the changes that the district is making, and not stand in the way of our moving up."
Concern about an adversarial board
I asked to elaborate on that last point, and she said she is concerned that, given the political unrest in Flagler County in the past four years, someone could get elected who would have such a different view of the school district that they might stand in the way of progress.
Dickinson was being very careful to choose her words diplomatically. She said she is concerned that we could have a repeat of the mid-1980s when a couple of people were elected and then immediately voted out the superintendent. Today, if the same thing happened to Superintendent Jacob Oliva, it would be terrible for the community, in her view.
"Jacob certainly has proven himself thus far, and I would hope that the general public would seee that he needs the support of his board," she said.
She pointed out that district representatives recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to make a presentation to hundreds of school representatives — local, state and national — all asking how Flagler County has done so well with things like the 1:1 technology initiative that puts a tablet or laptop in the hands of every student.
"Flagler is being looked at nationwide," she said, adding that, should she retire, she would miss being around for the great things the district has in its future.
Teachers don't vote?
So, how can the district continue to move forward? Dickinson puts a lot of trust in Oliva.
"The community just isn't aware of the great things that are really happening, and they’re happening because of Jacob and his team," she said. "I know I’m praising him loud and clear, but he deserves it. He’s got the big picture, and he's moving forward with it. And we should certainly not stand in his way."
But, she said, the way to make sure Oliva stays where is, is to elect a board that supports him. "And, having said that, we also know that parents and teachers don’t vote — we know that. That’s in the public records. Parents and teachers have got to get out and vote. ...
"I will never understand why teachers don’t vote," she continued. "It’s in their best interest to get the right person in there, but I believe that whoever takes my place will continue to take us in the right direction. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see the district fail or go backwards."