Earlier in the year, Positively Osceola published an article that featured the six women who are running for the school board in Osceola County, a first for the school district. There are two men also running for seats on the school board, Will Fonseca, who is running for the District 4 seat, and Jim Nichols, who is running for the District 1 seat. We want to make sure we give them an opportunity to share who they are and why they are running as well. We asked the two men to answer the same questions and to address the same topics we asked of the female candidates. Here is what James “Jim” Nickles, candidate for District One, shared with us:
1. Who you are – a little about you, your family, your past, and how it has brought you to where you are now
Although I am not a native Floridian, I am a 30 year resident of Osceola County, District 1. My wife, Laura and I have raised 2 amazing children here within the County. My Daughter Amanda is a graduate of Celebration High School and works in hospitality while my son Jack is a recent graduate of Gateway High School where his mother is a chemistry teacher. He is currently serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. 2. Past accomplishments – some information about your education, work experiences, volunteer situations, causes you have joined, and memberships to clubs and organizations you have a part of
I have worked in hospitality for over 40 years, allowing me to meet many people from around the world, travel around the Country and experience different cultures and diversity within our Country. For those of us that have been in the Kissimmee area for some time, you may remember me as one of the few original Big Bamboo bartenders.
I have been provided with many opportunities locally to serve our children – As an Orange County Public School teacher and industry services coordinator for what is now Orange Technical College, adult leadership in the Boy Scouts of America, U.S. Naval Sea Cadets and Pop Warner Cheer programs. I also currently serve on the Orange Technical College Lodging Program board.
Community involvement is something I truly believe in. Locally, I serve on the Osceola Tourism Council as vice-chair, the West 192 Development Authority board, co-created the West 192 Safety group and Orlando Mayor’s Veterans Advisory Council.
As the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Commander for Osceola County, I lead our Flotilla in which our members provide boating safety checks, lake clean ups and most importantly teach boating safety to adults and children within our County. I am also the Coast Guard agency representative and Situation Unit Branch Director at the Osceola Emergency Operations Center. 3. Why you are running – what motivated you to run for the school board? Why do you think you can make a difference by being on the board?
I am running for school board to continue my service to our community and most importantly our most valuable asset, our children. The school board needs members that are even keeled, can maintain professionalism, listen to all concerns of the parents, teachers, students and stakeholders and be the leaders in creating solutions to make positive changes that will assure student success. 4. What your positions are on the following:
* Teacher and professional support staff pay
Teacher and support staff base pay needs to be a decent wage. For example, we need to have a pay scale that does not have first year teachers making a wage higher than the ten-year veteran teacher. This will assist with retention and attracting new teachers which is critical as we struggle just to fill available positions.
CRT should not be taught in our schools and we should continue to follow state and DOE guidelines
* COVID-19 management
Each family and student has a story to tell while experiencing the pandemic. I know many students and teachers have struggled with virtual learning. I believe students need interaction with not only the teachers, but with fellow students. Moving forward, we need to carefully push forward and get back to “normal”.
* Addressing school growth – facilities
With the influx of families moving to the area daily, school growth is a necessity. Not only do new schools need to be built to accommodate students, older school need to be renovated and brought up to speed on technology. Growth also requires attracting new teachers and as I mentioned, teacher retention. These concerns require partnerships with all stakeholders while planning and be a priority as we move forward.
* Increasing performance in schools – increasing graduation rate, post-high school education participation – trade schools – education pipelines – etc.
Community partnerships and parent participation are imperative for student success. At an early age, I would like to see local businesses expose career opportunities to our children as many do and I have done on the Great American Teach-in day. We need to create career interest at an early age and show a path to what a student can become and strive for. Not all students will go to college and we have so many tools in our toolbox for our children but not all are exposed to them. We have great partnerships with Valencia, many CTE options and even the Poinciana High School Career Academy. These all feed into and help create a direct pipeline to a great career and build a better community.
* SRO’s in schools
SRO’s are necessary in each school with safety being the number one priority. The SRO should also work on creating a relationship with the students and be a role model so students learn to respect and trust our law enforcement officers as they grow up.
We will be sharing the response we received from Will Fonseca, Osceola County School Board candidate for District 4 next.