Josh Katz, the Orange County teacher whose video-taped speech on the “toxic culture of education” drew thousands of viewers, plans to run for the Orange County School Board. Katz, a University High School teacher, kicked off his campaign this afternoon outside a local elementary school.
He said the “outpouring of support” he received after the Orlando Sentinel wrote about his speech last week prompted the decision.
Though much of his frustration stems from state education policy, “maybe this is kind of a foot in the door to be heard” and to be a voice for those in local classroom, he said.
Katz, 39, already has an election Facebook page and has filed papers with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.
If he qualifies as a candidate, he will run for Orange’s district 1 seat, which is held by Joie Cadle. She is serving her third consecutive term and is seeking re-election. Cadle is well known in state and local education circles, from her time as a PTA mom, her years on the board and her stint as president of the Florida School Boards Association.
“Creative dialogue about education solutions and improvements is always welcome,” Cadle said in an email. “I think the voters are best served when the campaigns stick with those issues that are actually dealt with by the elected school board.”
The board must deal with the “business of running the tenth largest school system in the country,” she added, saying she hoped the campaign focused on issues such as student safety, transportation, facilities, and graduation rates.
Katz, a father of three, announced his plans outside Cheney Elementary School in east Orange.
The UCF graduate gained national attention when he posted a video of a speech he gave in Ohio on YouTube. In the speech, the algebra teacher shared his frustrations with many aspects of Florida’s school accountability system, most especially the state’s reliance on high-stakes standardized tests to judge students, teachers and schools.
Today, he reiterated those points to the more than dozen supporters who gathered behind him, saying students aren’t “data points” and a year’s work needs to be measured by more than a single test.
“We have to find a better way,” he added.
Katz said he knows he faces a “challenge” trying to win the seat but said he was buoyed by how many people had encouraged him to run, a notion he said initially made him laugh.
David Fry came to the event with his wife and 2-year-old son after watching Katz’s speech online.
“I like what you’ve done, sir,” he said.
Katz would need to resign his teaching position, if he won the election, as Florida law does not allow teachers to serve on a school board in their own district, according to the school board association.