School victories resulted from the hard work of activists

Gov. Ron DeSantis is getting national attention for leading an effort to take back control of the government schools in Florida.

Candidates he supported in school board races throughout the state won 25 out of 30 contests Tuesday and the victories flipped five boards from liberal to conservative.

DeSantis deserves credit. But it could not have been done without the aid of thousands of parents, including Eye on Jacksonville’s Citizen of the Month, Kathleen Murray.

Each month Eye tries to recognize the work of ordinary citizens who are making the city better.

Murray is executive director of the local chapter of the nationwide non-partisan organization Concerned Citizens Defending Freedom. (

The mission of CCDF is “To equip and empower American citizens to stand for and preserve freedom for themselves and future generations. To resolve breaches of freedom and liberty through local awareness, local light, and local action.”

The Duval CCDF chapter considered it a breach of parental freedom and liberty when the local school district began to sexualize and indoctrinate young children and keep it secret from parents. Even after that became illegal in Florida, the School Board refused to support the new law.

Murray is from Fort Lauderdale. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served 20 years before retiring. Last year, she decided to move from Virginia to Jacksonville. Ironically, she came for the schools – the Catholic schools – as well as the Navy presence and beaches.

She began attending what are called “liberty chats” with local citizens who are concerned about the direction the country is taking. At one meeting, the speaker was Steve Maxwell, the founder of CCDF.

“After he spoke, I said, ‘I’m in,’” Murray said. “It showed me there is a path to take the country back.”

Maxwell is a self-made millionaire from Polk County who was told by Sen. Rand Paul at Mar-a-Lago that you cannot achieve change at the national level. Maxwell decided to do it at the local level, county by county.

Another person in the chats was April Arena Carney. She later decided to run for the School Board, which then had only one conservative member.

Carney won, deposing an incumbent. Also re-elected was the one conservative member, Charlotte Joyce.

These were major victories for parents. Murray said CCDF does not endorse candidates, but many members of the group worked to help Carney and Joyce.

“My kids were homeschooled and attended Catholic schools,” Murray said. But she was stunned when she saw the curriculum for sex education in local schools. While speaking at a board meeting, she and others were referred to as “Puritans.”

“I was a Navy officer,” Murray said. “I have seen everything but the stuff in schools is disgusting.”

To fight it, CCDF uses the tactic of trying to make change privately. If that doesn’t work, they go public and if necessary institute legal action.

But they also are polite and respectful. It works. Murray said three board members after one meeting indicated they would be interested in looking into the “health” curriculum further, and one thanked her for her presentation.

Murray continues to work tirelessly to build CCDF and make it more effective. In addition to working on election integrity, she is planning two CCDF events that will involve the USS Orleck, a new feature of downtown Jacksonville.

As it turned out, the Orleck’s acquisition was led by former naval officer and lawyer Daniel Bean, who once was Murray’s instructor in surface warfare, and who Murray said was one of the best.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Duval chapter of, you can contact Kathleen Murray at [email protected]

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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