School board hopeful faces ‘optics’ problem


Is School Board candidate Rob MacCallum an ally of the local Moms For Liberty group?

That’s a fair question to ask in the wake of board member Jackie Rosario’s curious decision last week to select MacCallum’s wife, Colleen, as her representative on the school district’s book-challenge committee.


  • Rosario, who was endorsed by the Moms in her re-election campaign in 2022, is the group’s puppet on the dais.
  • MacCallum is seeking to unseat District 3 incumbent Peggy Jones, who has stood firm against the Moms’ repeated attempts to distract the board from its educational mission with concocted culture-war issues.
  • If the Moms somehow get MacCallum elected, they will seize control of the district with a 3-2 majority, which will hand Rosario the chair’s gavel for the first time in her five-plus years on the board.

Certainly, it’s odd that Rosario would choose Colleen MacCallum to serve on this committee, which, given the screaming headlines already generated by Moms-initiated book bans across America, has the potential to make national headlines.

Especially now.

Not only is the new appointee’s husband running against a sitting board member, but she also is confronting a criminal charge – leaving the scene of an accident with property damage – stemming from her Dec. 30 arrest.

“The optics are not good,” School Board Chair Teri Barenborg said.

Even if we afford Colleen MacCallum the presumption of innocence to which she is entitled, Rosario’s action reeks of politics, sending an obvious message that she’s endorsing a candidate hoping to oust a board member whose presence prevents the Moms’ takeover.

And for those who don’t know: Rosario and Jones have clashed often during board meetings the past three-plus years, especially when Jones served as chair and Rosario was advocating for the Moms’ divisive agenda.

“She made her choice, and it’s very clear,” Jones said, refusing to elaborate.

Rosario, meanwhile, didn’t respond to an email seeking her response to questions about her decision to appoint Colleen MacCallum to the book-challenge committee, despite knowing of her legal issue and her husband’s candidacy.

One direct question asked: Was the appointment an endorsement of Rob MacCallum’s candidacy, and, if so, why was she supporting him in his race against Jones?

Maybe she’s not ready to go public.

Rob MacCallum, however, didn’t hesitate to say he didn’t consider Rosario’s decision to appoint his wife to the committee as any kind of political endorsement.

Reached by phone last week, he said, “That’s not how I see it,” adding that he supports his wife’s willingness to sit on the committee because “she’s passionate about books, loves to read and the opportunity presented itself” to serve the community.

He said his wife mentioned her interest in the committee to Rosario when they met at a recent event. In a follow-up text-message exchange on Jan. 22, when Rosario inquired about serving on the committee, Colleen MacCallum replied, “The schools are a mess and I’m interested in helping in any way that I can.”

The schools are a mess?

We’ll get back to that.

As for being aligned with the Moms group, Rob MacCallum said he wasn’t “hiding from anything,” describing himself as a “middle-of-the-road, very level-headed guy” who owns real-estate and insurance agencies.

“I’m not looking to be on one side or the other,” Rob MacCallum said. “I’m not tied to any organization. I’m not political. I’ll never be a puppet for anyone. My job is to work with everyone.

“Even if I get endorsed by the Moms For Liberty – and I don’t know if that’s going to happen – that doesn’t mean I’m with them,” he added. “I’d accept their endorsement, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be their mouthpiece.

“If I get elected to the board, I’m there strictly for the kids.”

Asked if he supports the Moms’ hard-right agenda, Rob MacCallum said he had not taken a position.

“They have every right to voice their opinion,” he said “I’d never shut anyone down. But I like anyone who will fight for kids, whether it’s Moms For Liberty or Cindy Gibbs (Rosario’s challenger in the 2022 race) or Mara Schiff (former board member who steadfastly opposed the Moms).

“I’m going to focus on the kids and making this district the best it can be,” he added. “All the other stuff is noise to me.”

To this point, the man has given us no reason to doubt him.

But there was another man – board member Gene Posca, who ran unopposed for Schiff’s District 1 seat in 2022 – who also said he had his own belief system.

“Assume everything you’ve heard about me is wrong,” Posca told me in late November 2022, just days after he was sworn in. “I am not aligned with anybody.”

And it appeared he wasn’t … for a year.

Throughout his second year, however, Posca more often than not seemed to partner with Rosario, serving as her wing man and siding with the Moms in their take-no-prisoners battle to impose their morality on the district.

We’ll see what Rob MacCallum does in the coming months, when the campaigns get serious and the endorsements come.

Gov. Ron DeSantis already has targeted Jones, along with board member Brian Barefoot, for defeat in this year’s elections, simply because they chose to act responsibly in a global crisis and voted to impose a mask mandate during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic – and because the Moms asked him to.

Will DeSantis, who endorsed Rosario at the Moms’ request, also endorse Jones’ opponent?

Rob MacCallum said he’s “big on parental involvement,” adding that “a lot of kids struggle with that.” He wants to find ways to get more parents involved in their children’s education.

That’s not the same as parental rights – the rallying cry of the Moms, who fiercely advocate for parents, but only those who agree with them.

The political newcomer, when asked about the district recently earning an “A” grade from the Florida Department of Education and ranking No. 3 in the state with a 96-percent graduation rate, said, “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Rob MacCallum also disagreed with his wife’s “schools are a mess” text message to Rosario.

He did say, however, that he would like to see a “more unified vision” between the board and School Superintendent David Moore.

“I know it’s tough when you have a board with different personalities and perspectives,” he said, “but you can’t have six different visions.”

We don’t.

We have two – one shared by Superintendent David Moore and three board members, the other shared by the Moms group and two board members.

Which one will Rob MacCallum embrace as he moves forward with his campaign against one of the most respected and beloved School Board members in the county’s history?

“I got into this race with integrity,” he said. “I’ll go out with integrity, regardless of how it turns out.”

We’ll see.

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