Vice Chair Schiff relates experience on school board
—By Belinda Mall
Acknowledging that it is the most difficult job of her career, Mara Schiff described to members of the Democratic Women’s Club of Indian River County her path to the county’s school board .
“It has been an extraordinary journey,” she said, adding that the journey began at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. Schiff, who emphasized that she was speaking as a private citizen and not as an official member of the Indian River County School Board, said that among the speakers at the event was the filmmaker Michael Moore. Moore told the marchers that women should run for office such as governor and state legislator. “If you can’t do any of those, run for school board,” Moore said. And that’s what Schiff did. “If not me, if not now, when?” she said.
Schiff, representative of District 1, spoke at the March luncheon of the DWC held at The Patio Seafood Tavern. She characterized her arrival on the school board in November 2018 as out of a Stephen King novel — having to face one crisis after another. She felt, “Please can I dive under the dais?” But “I do not have the luxury of quitting,” the current board vice chair said.
Schiff credited her fellow board members with working to resolve those crises. “We have moved light years from where we were 16 months ago,” she said. Among the resolutions was one to replace the prior superintendent with Dr. David Moore, formerly assistant superintendent with Miami-Dade Public Schools. Dr. Moore has “pulled out all the stops,” she said.
With new policies and procedures in place, the school district is better than it has been in years, Schiff said. Those policies and procedures include viewing all actions through an “equity lens.” The district has historically disciplined students of color two to three times the rate of white children, she said. The board wants to assure all students be treated fairly and equably. Part of that plan is to include equity in teacher evaluations.
A new contract between the school district and the teachers’ union is also near or at completion.
The district, which encompasses 13 elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools and five charter schools, is reinvigorated, Schiff said. She is hopeful that Indian River County will be an A district in five years or less and one of the top 10 in the state.
Schiff is an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and president of PeaceWorks Consulting, Inc. Yet, her seat on the Indian River County School Board is “the most full-time part-time job I’ve had,” she admitted. It’s “hard, exhausting, but I think worth it.”