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Thursday, October 14, 2021

New Marion School board member suggests alternative revenue, mitigation options during first meeting

Newly appointed board member Don Browning offered his thoughts on alternate sources of revenue and COVID-19 mitigation during his first official meeting on the Marion County School Board. 

Browning was welcomed by fellow board members during a special school board meeting held on Tuesday, September 7.

In his first public comments since being appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis at the end of August, Browning says he has been using video and media materials to catch up on board-related matters. 

“It’s my goal to make this the premier school district in the state of Florida,” said Browning. 

Marion County School Board Member Don Browning
Don Browning during a special meeting of the Marion County School Board on September 7

After posing a few questions and comments throughout the brief, 30-minute meeting, Browning offered his closing remarks about the district’s budget and the “situation we’ve got health-wise.” 

“I just want to say that I want to blend in science all I can,” said Browning. referring to the district’s ongoing COVID-19 mitigation efforts. He suggested using “ionic solutions” or “electrons flying through the air” to clean the “atmosphere in any building.”

Marion County School Board members voted to implement a mask mandate with an opt-out policy earlier this month.

On Monday, Marion County Schools reported over 500 new cases of COVID-19 and over 2,000 quarantines for students, teachers and district staff. To date, over 9,000 students, or around 21%, have filed “opt-outs” with the district.

Browning went on to talk about new potential sources of funding for the school district and suggested there were resources in the county, and “Brick City,” that should be considered. 

“The center of our county is Brick City…perhaps we have a source of some bricks…There are bricks, like Chicago bricks, that can become incredibly valuable,” said Browning, suggesting that the value of the county’s bricks might increase ten-fold or hundred-fold. 

“So I’m just going to bring that type of thing forward and I’d like everybody to dig deep and think about revenue and just think about this beautiful legacy we have, and you get into a Salvador Dali kind of a thing, where things that might be $10, are now $100, or $1,000. We happen to have a mine right here in Marion County,” said Browning. 

During the meeting, school board members voted to approve a nearly $750 million dollar budget for the school year.

Browning took over the District 2 seat that was vacated by Beth McCall, who submitted her resignation letter to Governor Ron DeSantis during a Marion County School Board workshop in June.