Maybe it was the famous mustache that seemed so familiar to the audience at the Sept. 17 Oviedo City Council meeting. Or the fact that until a few months ago the man about to take the microphone had seen more TV airtime than almost anybody in Orlando.
“He obviously needs no introduction,” Seminole County School Board chairwoman Tina Calderone said. And then Stan Van Gundy told Oviedo it’s time Seminole County residents took more responsibility for their schools.
“The cuts have been made,” Van Gundy, the former longtime basketball coach who had led the Orlando Magic to the NBA finals in 2009, said. He was hoping to raise awareness of what needs to be done to keep education funding from slipping. “We lost over 49 teaching positions last year. There’s really no place else to go.”
“We're at a tipping point where if we do not step up as citizens of this county, we're going to see the quality of our education decline,” he said. “I don't want to see that.”
Van Gundy has a roundabout way of achieving that end, chairing the organization Citizens for Preservation of Property Values, which is motivated to keep property taxes up to help pay for schools. He’s partnering with former Magic player Dwight Howard to help improve funding for Seminole County Schools. Two of Van Gundy’s children attend the county’s schools. Howard’s home is still in Lake Mary.
Van Gundy’s organization is endorsing a one-mil tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot that would cost $1 per $1,000 in taxable value, but would raise an estimated $25 million for the school system that has seen a $73 million drop in funding in five years.
He postulated that any more of a drop in funding, which had already led to cuts in art, music, physical education and other programs, would start to impact core classes, leading to a less-educated workforce.
“If you run a business, where's your qualified workforce going to come from?” he asked.
Though there was no official proclamation of endorsement of the tax on the dais, Mayor Dominic Persampiere said he was happy to see Van Gundy pushing the issue.
“It is an honor to have you here, and it's great to have you behind this referendum,” Persampiere said.