Tuesday June 20th, 2023 the Flagler County School Board held their meeting at 6pm following the four hour workshop that ended shortly before this meeting.
The meeting started with special announcements from Coleen Conklin. Board member Conklin presented Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt with a retirement gift of a Yeti Cooler and a gift card.
Following this special announcement, the board recognized the 2022-2023 Flagler County Schools retirees. The board recognized the staff who were present first, and then recognized those who had retired earlier in the year and were not able to be present for the meeting.
Following the retirees, the board recognized the State Champions from both FPC and Matanzas. The high school staff thanked the board for recognizing the student athletes who have won State Champions. The coaches thanked the board as well and talked about their athletes who have achieved the title of State Champion in their respective sports.
At this time the floor was opened up to public comment. First comment was on social studies which is up for approval. He talked about how normally for 6-8 weeks before Memorial Day and Veterans Day, in the schools. While in the schools the vets would talk with students about what it means to be an American, a soldier and what Memorial Day and Veterans Day means. He mentioned that last year there was just one invitation given. He stated that even before COVID the number of invitations has been declining.
Another commenter came up to talk about the guardian program and the book review. He stated that more guns in the school is not the answer, and if they do decide to allow more armed bodies on the school grounds he urged the board to ensure that it is trained police staff, and not everyday civilians. Regarding book review, he stated that the program works and that it should not be thrown out.
Gary Owens came to speak on the social studies. He asked why the veterans in the classrooms, and other vet based programs have dwindled. They no longer get applications for scholarships has declined as well. He asked who is teaching the kids about what holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day mean. He asked the board to remember to call upon the veteran organizations because they are here to help as needed.
Shannon, from Moms for Liberty came to talk about the guardian program. She stated that she is happy that it has been talked about, and she is happy that there will be a decision.
Another commenter came up to speak about the guardian program. He stated that he is against the idea of more guns in schools and he asked the board to reflect on their upcoming decision for the duration of his time.
Public comments were then closed at this time. The board then discussed agenda items 701 through 710. The board voted and passed them 5-0. The board then heard items 901 – 906, there was no discussion, and the items were passed 5-0. 1101-1103 which is Human Resources, no questions or concerns were mentioned; the board voted and passed it 5-0.
The board then heard a presentation of Solution Tree Professional Development. They are seeking approval for a two day workshop that will help staff in working with students. The board had no discussion, and passed the motion 5-0.
The board then heard the subject of Social Studies material approval for k-12 recommended materials. If approved, there is a 30 day objection period starting tomorrow. The board had no discussion, and voted 5-0 to approve the materials.
The board then heard the Guardian Program, a draft of a resolution that states the safety of all children is the number one priority. The state has approved a program that allows an extra layer of protection as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. This program is a force multiplier to add extra layer of safety in addition to the School Resource Officers. Sheriff Staly has already agreed to work with a number of coaches. The coaches would have to go through extensive training, background check and a multitude of other tests. If an applicant fails any part of the program they are rejected. The floor was opened for discussion, and Christy Chong stated that there has been extensive study done into this program and they have talked to Suwannee County to see their models. Board member Sally Hunt had a few comments. She feels that there are going to be too many families who find this unsettling. She is supportive of the Guardian Program of some form, not necessarily in the way it has been presented. She said she is very torn on the subject, she is concerned that multiple staff will be concealed carrying. She stated that she is supportive of the program in some form but not at this time. Board member Will Furry commented that the board has spent a lot of time researching and discussing this with the Sheriff. He feels this version of the Guardian program is a good deterrent to active assailants. Vice Chair Colleen Conklin stated that she will not vote in favor of it this evening. She feels they cannot adopt a resolution without the details in place. Conklin worries about the lack of training. She is worried about having more guns on campus which could mean that could mean more access to guns for students; and the confusion that could be had during a potential tragedy should one occur. Conklin also stated that every teacher and staff member she has talked to has not been on board with the Guardian program. Chair Cheryl Massaro stated that at first she was adamantly against this program. She stated that the Suwannee presentation was an eye opener for her, Suwannee stated that one big factor was the principals. So Massaro went and talked to the principals. After talking to staff she felt that the schools and staff are not there yet. At this time the vote was called and the resolution did not pass; the vote was 3-2 against the program.
The board went on to hear about the charter bus services for things like field trips, sports, and other after school activities. The board was called to approve the award to company contracts. The vote passed 5-0.
Parking lot improvement being awarded to Four Seas Trucking & Excavation for the amount of $2,524,482.50. the board voted to award the project 5-0, although some of the board mentioned they were not happy with the costs.
The board then went on to pass the multiple job descriptions by Human Resources. The board voted in favor of them 5-0.
The Chair asked about old business, at which point Board Member Will Furry spoke up. He stated he had follow up on Flagler Youth Orchestra, he wanted outside counsel to review the organization and how it works with the district, so that the board can be sure everything is being operated properly. He wanted to make a motion to hire outside legal counsel on the matter to determine if they could continue operating like this or if changes needed to be made. Christy Ching seconded the motion, to review the structure of the how it can be operated once the audit findings are complete. The floor was opened for discussion of the matter by the board. Vice Chair Colleen Conklin spoke up to state that the same structure is in place with other entities, and the only part that was faulty was the auditing and reporting. She stated that she didn’t find the need for outside legal counsel necessary. It appeared that some of the board was under different impressions on how the structure of the Flagler Youth Orchestra was set up. Conklin is under the impression that the board and the district is who owns the program, while Furry is under the impression that the Flagler Youth Orchestra is its own entity. Furry stated he just wanted clarity and guidance on the set up and the structure of the program to make sure it aligns with proper protocols. Chair Massaro spoke up to ask the School Board Attorney if there was a lawyer that she recommended an outside school district counsel to which she stated there was. A new motion was made to have Ms. Gavin reach out to an outside school district lawyer to review the set up and structure of the Flagler Youth Orchestra, the board voted 5-0 to have Ms. Gavin reach out to legal counsel.
The board moved on to new business at this point, to which Sally Hunt spoke up with some thoughts. She spoke up to the point of how it appears that the district is doing stuff ahead of board approval. She stated that she wanted to see the board tighten things up, and have then board approving things before the district actually does them. Vice Chair Conklin stated that she agreed on the sentiment. Board Member Hunt asked if there was a way to tighten things up so that things that fall under formalities can be stated up front so that time isn’t wasted talking in length about things already in motion. Board Member Hunt stated she wanted to be able to spend more time talking to staff, talking about new items, etc., so that things are not rushed. Vice Chair Conklin suggested that the board look at this during their retreat so they could spend the time looking at the statutes and making sure things are running as they should per state statutes.
At this point public comment was opened up. Anthony Martinez came up to talk about Veteran Recognition, he is from the Flagler County Marine Corps League detachment 876. They have established two $500 scholarships for JROTC graduates from both high schools three years ago. He went on to say that they have never been invited to talk to students in the schools. They have hosted many going away parties at pizza parlors and the families and JROTC leaders have attended with them. He asked the board to please open the doors to the veterans and let them help teach the kids about what it means to be an American.
Claudette O’Dowd came up to speak on multiple subjects. She brought up the Guardian program, and that in Nashville Tenn., actually passed by a school because the security there was stronger. She didn’t know the security details of that school, but it shows that extra security is a deterrent. She brought up the smaller classes and satellite schools, and she thinks that is a great idea. She stated that while her kids are now in private school, the classes are smaller and her kids are excelling in their studies, but when they were in public school they were not doing well academically at all. She also brought up the veterans, she thinks that having the veterans come to talk to kids at the schools is a great idea on teaching them about America.
Another commenter came up to talk about the Guardian Program. She recommended that they get the security issues taken care of so that the Guardian Program can move forward. She said it will now be at least two years before the program can move forward another step. She told the board they are trusting the board to do what they say, to get the foundation set so that the Guardian Program can be implemented in the future.
Megan, a Flagler Beach Resident came to speak on the superintendent, and she is an employee of Flagler Schools and thanked current Superintendent Mittelstadt. She went on to talk about Superintendent Mittelstadt and her accomplishments as the superintendent for Flagler County Schools. Megan then went on to state that Cathy Mittelstadt was the best boss she has ever worked for.
Former Board Member Trevor Tucker thanked Cathy Mittelstadt for her time and service as our Flagler County Superintendent.
The last speaker of the night came to talk about the Guardian Program. He stated that psychopaths walk among us and we need to be aware of that. He suggested that we look deeply into the psyche of the individuals who may get involved in. He wanted the board to take into account how individuals relate to others, situations and how they react to things.
Christy Chong thanked Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt for her service and stated that she respected everyone’s opinion on the Guardian Program. She thanked the Sheriff and his staff for their time and effort on the presentation. Will Furry thanked the Superintendent as well, as well as acknowledging the veterans that spoke tonight and he asked Ms. Moore to look for opportunities that the veterans and active duty can be more involved in the schools. Sally Hunt thanked the superintendent as well and the long term employees and retirees. She thanked the veterans as well, and said that there is opportunity to expand community involvement in the schools. Vice Chair Colleen Conklin thanked Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt for her amazing contributions to our community and schools. She also apologized to our veterans for the shift and the change in the schools. Chair Cheryl Massaro stated that the Guardian Program may be done for right now, but it is not done forever. She agreed that there is a gap due to staff changes and she also apologized to our veterans.
Cathy Mittelstadt said that the outpouring of well wishes has been overwhelming. She said it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the community. She welcomed Lashakia Moore as the Interim Superintendent of Flagler Schools.