It’s not uncommon to find education leaders with the “doctor” title before their name. But Marc Yacht is not one of those kinds of doctors. He’s actually a medical doctor, the retired director of the Pasco County Health Department.
And he now wants to lend his medical knowledge and experience to Pasco County Schools as a member of the school board.
“I’m advocating for more nursing services in the schools, since many children now have chronic medical problems that require more attention,” Yacht said. “I also would like to offer my expertise when it comes to health policy issues that come before the school board. That’s a big one for me, and something we haven’t really had since Marge Whaley left a number of years ago.”
However, Yacht is not looking to just address medical needs in the school district. He also wants to rein in what he says is the district’s out-of-control dependence on charter schools and voucher credits, which eats money that could’ve otherwise been spent on improving public schools.
“We are No. 43 nationally when it comes to public schools,” Yacht said. “We are so low on the list for funding, it really concerns me when money is being drained from public schools for charter schools.”
More than 87 percent of voucher credits, he said, are going to religious schools.
“That is a Constitutional issue for me,” Yacht said. “I am a 100 percent advocate for public education, and I feel no Florida tax dollar should go to religious or private schools. Yet, I’m hearing no voices about this. I’m not hearing anything from school boards or superintendents addressing concerns about how significant tax dollars are being drained.”
Teachers also are getting unfairly blamed for a school’s poor performance, Yacht said.
“We do not understand the problem that children have when they are coming into a school,” he said. “Much of it is poverty, and they don’t have the resources others do. And our teachers are being demoralized by all this, plus they haven’t received a raise for five years, so that’s not helping much either.”
One thing that Yacht hopes to share with fellow board members, if elected, is to be more open-minded to the concerns brought to them by the community. Far too often, it seems the board has made up its mind in advance, and what parents and students feel is usually left on the table.
The worst example, he says, was when the school board decided last year to allow a cell tower to be built at Seven Oaks Elementary School in Wesley Chapel.
“Parents came before the school board and really addressed concerns,” Yacht said. “They didn’t just come mad, they came with information. More than 50 of them spoke in front of the school board. But still, in the end, there were four votes for the cell tower, and only one against.”
Yacht isn’t sure a cell tower would actually have long-term health effects on students learning near it, but it just didn’t need to happen.
“There are lots of places to put a cell tower, so why do you need to put it on school grounds?” he said.
The school board also needs to refocus some of its attention on the larger issues affecting the county, Yacht said. Far too often, time is wasted in areas it shouldn’t be.
“The school board deals with a lot of minutiae, like when a teacher needs to get disciplined or a child apologizes for bad behavior,” Yacht said. “They are getting involved, and it’s kind of like Nero fiddling while Rome is burning. They are looking at smaller issues when the house is falling down.”
Yacht’s focus is to protect the very education system he says is being threatened by the push of privatization. And he’s ready to do that from a spot on the school board.
“We have to start looking at the larger issues, because if we don’t, public schools are going to be gone,” Yacht said. “That is the agenda of this (state) government, and we can’t let it happen.”
Non-partisan candidate for Pasco County School Board, District 5
Retired director, Pasco County Health Department
Helen Yacht, wife
Philip Yacht, son
Becky Yhap, daughter
Susan Michelle Hinkle, daughter
Hudson, since 1987
through Aug. 1
Published August 6, 2014
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