Sarah Fortney: Polk County School Board Member

By : Erin Pike
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Sarah Fortney has been an educator and advocate for students and staff for over 30 years, fighting for their rights and creating the best learning environment for all.

Over three years ago, Sarah and I were attending an emergency staff meeting on the last day of school, and as we watched our school district lead a powerful change maker through a forced resignation, Sarah spoke up for the staff and the students. That was the day Sarah knew her efforts were not enough and began to consider what more she could do.She signed the papers to become a candidate for Polk County School Board, District 3 in May 2017. We spent the next 17 months attending gatherings, shaking hands and knocking on doors to meet voters and inform them of the need for a candidate like Sarah on the board.

Polk County is considered a conservative county, and on Sarah’s porch at the beginning of the election, we discussed that her sexuality could come into question. We planned a response but to our surprise she was never publicly attacked. Sarah was informed she would be the first openly gay person to win a school board seat in the state of Florida if she were elected. It is exciting to know that her intent to run was to be a changemaker for students and staff of the Polk County School Board. It’s also exciting that after the election, she marked her victory as a historical first.

The feedback has been quite positive and reflected how irrelevant her sexuality was to the job position.

Sarah has been a changemaker for students and staff her entire adult life. Getting to shake the hands of students, parents and staff she has influenced over the past 33 years makes me proud to have stood by her side throughout the election process.

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