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Meet School Board Chairwoman Bridget Ziegler

Bridget files for re-election to the Sarasota County School Board alongside her husband Christian and daughters Reagan (4) & Sloane (2)

Bridget Ziegler, Chairman of the Sarasota County School Board, is currently seeking re-election to continue serving the best interest of all stakeholders, including students, parents, families, teachers and all taxpayers.

Bridget was first elected to the Sarasota County School Board in 2014, after being appointed by Governor Rick Scott to fill a vacancy. During her four years on the board, she has been a successful champion for hard fiscal responsibility, transparency, and #StudentFirst policies.

Passion For Serving:

Bridget was always active in her community, predominantly focused with local nonprofits. But as with any parent, once she had a child, her priorities and reason for living changed dramatically. With the birth of her daughter, Reagan, Bridget had a newfound sense of meaning: ensuring all families had access to high-quality education options.

The combination of her business acumen and passion for children is what has allowed her to be effective in serving her community, with a focus on what matters – the STUDENTS.

Throughout the four years of her service, she has been a voice for parents on the School Board and has assisted countless families navigating the various roadblocks and bureaucracy to ensure their problems are addressed promptly and in the best interest of the children.

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Bridget’s Priorities, Actions & Wins

✔️ Keeping Our Kids Safe
Like Bridget, parents across Sarasota County drop their children off at school each morning and trust our schools to watch over them throughout the day. And while we work and go about our daily lives, we expect our children to be safe until the moment we pick them up. As a parent, there is NOTHING more important or valuable to Bridget than her children and that is why her top priority has and will continue to be school safety. Actions & Wins:

  • Championed school safety and security enhancements in 2015 to become part of the five-year Capital Improvement Plan’s priorities – including single point entry.
  • Appointed to serve on Governor Rick Scott’s School Safety Workshop, which resulted in her recommendation of the state having a baseline standard of security guidelines, an update of OPPAGA, and audits to ensure compliance.
  • Pushed for streamlined Risk Management Procedures to be adopted at every school site.
  • Championed the closure of School Avenue at Sarasota High School.
✔️ #StudentsFirst
Every decision Bridget make starts with one question – What is in the best interest of the over 43,000 students in Sarasota County? The focus of education shouldn’t be on the “system”, but instead solely focused on every single individual child and what we can do to help teach, shape, and guide them towards a successful future. Bridget has and will always put the needs of our #StudentsFirst!
✔️ Empowering Parents & Families
No one will ever know what’s in the best interest of each and every individual student greater than the parents and families watching over them. That is why Bridget believes that we must incourage, engage and empower parents to be as involved as possible in the education of their greatest treasurer – their children – both at school and at home! Actions & Wins:

  • Championed fairness by grandfathering students when amending class weighting and student progression plans.
  • Championed transparency and equity for students by promoting school choice options (Charter School Information, School Choice Open Enrollment, Dual Enrollment).
  • Founding Member and President of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM), an organization dedicated to focusing on the needs of each individual student and empowering parents.
✔️ Supporting Teachers & Staff
Outside of parents & families, the greatest influence on the success of our students (the next generation) in Sarasota County are the over 5,000 teachers, staff and coaches instructing and supporting them each day. Teaching is a true calling based on a deep-rooted passion to help not just educate, but mentor and shape our students. The last thing a teacher should have to worry about is if they have enough supplies or other resources to carry out their passion for the benefit of our children. As a member of the Sarasota County School Board, Bridget will continue her efforts to ensure that our teachers & staff have the resources necessary to achieve their mission. Actions & Wins:

  • Streamlined the administrative process for student referrals to ensure fairness and transparency.
  • Instituted an audit and review of hiring process.
  • Streamlined the online system for volunteer sign up, thus increasing volunteer engagement.
✔️ Fiscal Responsibility & Stewardship
Bridget will never forget that every dollar spent by the Sarasota County School District is a dollar given to us by the hardworking and generous taxpayers of Sarasota County. That is why she is so passionate about ensuring that the Sarasota County School District serves as a good stewards of taxpayer dollars by securing the greatest return on investment (ROI) from every expenditure. Actions & Wins:

  • Instituted an Independent Negotiator for Teachers Union Bargaining Contract Negotiations.
  • Secured an annual savings of $200,000 by updating the School Insurance Brokerage Procurement Policy and requiring an RFP at a minimum of every five years.
  • Provided increased financial review and oversight by requiring that any improvement over $150,000 on a non-instructional structure be brought before the board for approval.
  • Implemented financial safeguards, such as ensuring that any expenditure that exceeds the previously approved bid contracts’ “not to exceed threshold” now requires the board approval. (Prior to this requirement being in place, the process was to simply notify board members by email and no approval was necessary).
✔️ Champion for Transparency
You elect the School Board and you pay for the School District. The School District is YOUR government and Bridget believes that you have a right to view and provide feedback on every decision, expenditure and action taken on your behalf. Meetings cannot happen in obscure rooms away from cameras, policy cannot be proposed without your review, and your money cannot be spent without you knowing exactly how it’s spent. Bridget has been a champion for transparency and while her efforts have upset some along the way, she will never apologize or stop advocating for whom she works for and represents – The People! Actions & Wins:

  • Increased transparency and public access by moving School Board Workshop Meetings from an obscure conference room without cameras to the School Board Chambers with cameras.
  • Allowed “The People” to have direct access to the discussions, proposals and decisions of their School Board by requiring that all School Board meetings and workshop meetings be televised, live streamed and online archived.
  • Increased public access and awareness of upcoming proposals, discussions and votes by requiring the attachment of supporting documents to the online agenda.
  • Blocked placement of any item to the Consent Agenda that does not have supporting documents, so that there is increased review and transparency for the public.
  • Increased transparency by requiring that all construction projects/capital improvement plans be identified by name.
✔️ Taxpayer & Parent Advocate
With an annual budget of over $800,000,000 (yes, $800 million), 52 schools, 5,000 teachers & staff and over 43,000 students, the Sarasota County School District is a massive organization and can be intimidating/difficult to navigate. To help address this challenge, Bridget has always made herself available to every taxpayer, parent, staff member and student who has questions, needs additional information, provides feedback or needs help navigating THEIR school district.
✔️ Cleaning Up The Bureaucracy
It may not get the headlines, but some of the greatest impacts Bridget has had as a member of the Sarasota County School Board is to help revise the School Board policies for compliance and procedural accuracy, From increasing accountability by revising the Superintendent Evaluation to measurable metrics or blocking the use of the official School district email server by forcing them to use their own server, many of the policies championed by Bridget will have a lasting positive impact on the School Board and entire School District. Actions & Wins:

  • Championed the removal of the Teachers Union’s use of the official School District email server. The Teachers Union now operates on their own server.
  • Restructured the District’s Capital Improvement Plan, which requires any improvement over $150,000 on a non-instructional structure must be brought before the board for approval
  • Aligned the Strategic Goals & Superintendent Evaluation Tool to Measurable Metrics.
  • Embarked on a full-scale School Board policy review for regulatory compliance and procedural accuracy.
  • Implemented financial safeguards, such as ensuring that any expenditure that exceeds the previously approved bid contracts’ “not to exceed threshold” now requires the board approval. (Prior to this requirement being in place, the process was to simply notify board members by email and no approval was necessary).
  • Updated the Textbook Adoption Process to ensure public review, input and transparency at the local level and worked with the State Legislature to adopt similar policies statewide.
  • Implemented a Review and Restructure of the School District’s Equity and Harassment Policy, which increased the integrity of the process.
  • Restructured the District’s 7.71 Construction Procurement Process.
  • Updated Insurance Brokerage Procurement Policy, requiring an RFP at a minimum of every five years. This process resulted in an annual savings of $200,000.
  • Updated Texting Policy to align with Public Records Laws and reduce District Liability.

Bridget’s Community Involvement

Organization Involvement:

  • Republican Party of Sarasota County, Precinct Committeewoman
  • East County Republican Club, Member
  • Nokomis, Osprey, Venice Area (NOVA) Republican Club, Member
  • North Port Area Republican Club, Member
  • Republican Club of Longboat Key, Member
  • Republican Club of South Sarasota County, Member
  • Republican Women’s Club of Sarasota, Member
  • Sarasota Republican Club, Member
  • Children First
  • Asolo Repertory
  • Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce
  • Gulf Coast Builders Exchange
  • Urban Land Institute
  • Florida Coalition of School Board Members, Founding Member & Current President 2017-2018

Community Engagement:

  • Leadership Sarasota Executive Board 2014-2016
  • Leadership Sarasota, Youth Leadership Chair 2015
  • Leadership Sarasota, Youth Leadership Vice-Chair 2014
  • Leadership Sarasota – Class of 2013

Awards & Mentions:

  • Observer’s 2018: People to Watch (read)
  • Tampa Bay Business Journal: Women in Business Nominee 2018
  • Sarasota Magazine: Best of Award: Best Public Official – Honorable Mention 2017
  • SRQ Magazine Women in Business Nominee, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Sarasota Magazine: Best Of Award: Greatest Community Accomplishment – 2015: Election of Bridget Ziegler
  • Business Observer’s 30 under 30 award – 2011
  • SRQ Magazine: Millenial 6