Sales tax increase a worthy investment in education, Viera couple says


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The Keith family, spotting a family of sandhill cranes, encourages sons Gavin, with camera, and Logan to pursue their educational passions.

Laene and Dustin Keith’s children, Gavin and Logan, are products of Brevard Public Schools, and if the public education advocates don’t say so themselves, their children are pretty darn good products of the product.

Laene Keith, a pediatric speech therapist for Health First hospitals, is a parent advocate hoping to influence voters to approve a half-cent sales tax initiative Nov. 4 to “Save our Students,” what she says is the new, more accurate name for the Save our Schools initiative that failed in 2012. She is a member of the BPS parent leadership team that spans the county.

“It’s not about saving schools, but students. Our schools have done such a stellar job with sparse budgets of recent years. Imagine what they can do for our children, our community, our future, with just a bit more money to more closely meet their needs.”

The family lives in the Viera East neighborhood zoned for the A-rated Williams Elementary School, but they vied for and won the lottery for slots at Stevens Elementary School on Merritt Island because of their sons’ penchant for the arts, for which the school is a magnet.

As of last year, the Keiths began paying about $150 a month for corridor busing that the school district dropped as promised after the 2012 half-cent sales tax failed, also closing three schools and making other deep cuts.

Gavin, pursuing his arts interests in photography and theater stage design, will rise from Stevens to seventh grade at Kennedy Middle School because of its participation in the Cambridge educational system and focus on the arts. He has published two books of photos and information on wildlife and native habitat called “Backyard Brevard” that spurred Brevard Zoo summer camps and family trips this summer to discover wildlife across Florida, snorkeling in the Florida Keys and Hammock Beach near St. Augustine.

The cover photo for his first book recently won first place for photography from the annual Day of the Dolphin wildlife festival at their neighborhood Clubhouse Park.

“You can definitely say we place a high priority on our children’s education, just like many families in the Viera/Suntree area,” said Dustin Keith, a space and defense business development consultant who brings his high-tech work home with him to share with his sons, helps with homework and coaches basketball and baseball. “There are lots of volunteer hours and money invested to enhance our children’s education and donated to the schools overall.”

Fourth-grader Logan designs and dances hip hop productions, plays musical instruments and dabbles in other arts.

“I love the feeling it gives me to express myself and create through dance,” Logan said. Gavin added, “It means a lot that our parents give us every opportunity and every resource to be all we want to become.”

For more information on Save our Students, go to bsos14.org.