On Friday, Flagler County School Board member Colleen Conklin joined the list of 34 other applicants for superintendent in the search to replace Jim Tager, who retires at the end of June. (The published list of resumes on the district’s website, as of Sunday afternoon, still had 29 names. A district spokesman said it would soon be updated.) This coming week–on Tuesday at 6 p.m., in Room 3 at the Government Services Building–a citizens’ advisory board meets publicly for the first time to go through the applications and prepare a short list to forward to the school board by February 19. Each of the five school board members appointed four individuals to the advisory board.
The school board has not met to discuss the matter or make a decision since Conklin filed her application. It does not meet again for a business meeting until Feb. 18. (It meets in workshop on Tuesday, but doesn;t vote at workshops.) The district administration, through Board Attorney Kristy Gavin, said Friday that the four individuals Conklin appointed would not be seated on the council–a decision that potentially raises Sunshine law and other issues, since the board appointed the advisory board and the board set out advisory board roles, but the board clearly did not decide not to seat the four advisory board members. The administration, in other words, may be executing a decision not ratified by the board, based on discussions that did not take place at a public meeting. Stephen Furnari, a Flagler Beach attorney who chairs the Exceptional Student Education Parent Advisory Committee and was appointed to the selection advisory board by Conklin, wrote the following to Gavin and Flagler County School Board Chairman Janet McDonald. The letter was also sent to the remaining board members.
By Stephen Furnari
In light of Colleen Conklin’s submission of an application for the Superintendent position at Flagler schools, I ask that you reconsider your decision to remove Ms. Conklin’s nominees to the Community Advisory Committee to afford the communities in which those leaders represent a stronger voice in the selection process. The selection of a new superintendent is the most consequential decision for the communities that these leaders represent, and it is important that they have a voice during this process.
As you are aware, I was one of Conklin’s advisory committee nominees and was selected to represent the ESE parent and caretaker community, one of Flagler schools’ largest student populations.
While I understand and agree with your desire to have an unbiased process, I believe that this can be accomplished without removing Conklin’s nominees to the advisory committee.
As you are aware, the committee’s final recommendation to the school board is non-binding. The integrity of the committee process could be maintained simply by having Conklin’s nominees abstain from voting on, or discussing, her application at committee meetings.
The committee is not choosing the next superintendent. It is merely advising the school board about several applicants that community members feel deserve a closer look. School board members ultimately have the right to accept or reject the committee’s recommendations.
In this regard, there are 28 other qualified candidates who merit review from the respective communities that Conklin’s committee nominees represent.
Alternatively, as it relates to the representation of the community of ESE parents and caretakers, to the extent that you do not feel the committee process can be unbiased with my participation, I ask that you select another parent-leader from the ESE-parent community to participate in the committee.
Again, we represent one of the largest student populations at Flagler schools, and it would be a travesty if we were not afforded an opportunity to participate in the committee process. Kristi Furnari, Erica Cona, Lisa Peterson, Heather Dorries come to mind as just some of the highly qualified people who are leaders in the ESE-parent community, are members of the Exceptional Student Education Parent Advisory Committee, are reasonable people and could adequately represent our interests during this process.
Finally, for the same reasons that you or the administration thought it inappropriate for Conklin’s nominees to remain on the committee, the same could be said for school board members voting in favor of Conklin’s application.
Whether or not Conklin is the most qualified applicant to fill the superintendent position, if ultimately chosen by the school board, there will always be accusations of self-dealing that will taint the selection process and compromise school board members’ reputation with the public.
Conklin’s perplexing decision to apply for superintendent without first resigning from the school board put her colleagues in an unenviable position and left her constituents in Flagler County without her voice in this process — the most significant responsibility she was elected to perform.
Perhaps the school board should consider a new policy that prohibits its members from applying for positions that it ultimately selects and supervises. I look forward to your response and I appreciate your consideration of this matter.
Stephen Furnari chairs the Exceptional Student Education Parent Advisory Committee in the Flagler school district.
|Flagler County — Superintendent Search Citizens Advisory Committee
Victor Vazquez (President of Hispanic American Club of Palm Coast)
|Jearlyn Dennie (Representing African Culture population and many different social groups)|
|Amelia Fulmer (CEO Flagler Auditorium)|
|Garry Lubi (Business)|
|Ron Tortelli (Ed. Foundation/Mentor)|
|Don Petito (FC Fire Chief (FPC FLAcademy)|
|Janine Killmer (Administrator/VPK Coordinator/ESE)|
|Katie Hansen (FCEA/Teacher)|
|Matt Maxwell (Business)|
|Mike Hansen (Business/Parent)|
|Patrick Juliano (Business/Community Member)|
|Sean Moylan (County Attorney)|
|Steve Furnari (ESE) [Conklin Appointee: To be excluded]|
|Jack Howell (City Government) [Conklin Appointee: To be excluded]|
|Judy Conte (Educator, Past School Board Member) [Conklin Appointee: To be excluded]|
|Sandra Shank (Parent, Foster Parent Group) [Conklin Appointee: To be excluded]|
|Cat Evans (Parent, Education Foundation Board Member & Business Community)|
|Judy Mazzella (Parent & District Volunteer support)|
|Carl Jones (President, African American Mentoring Program)|
|Jill Woolbright (retired teacher)|
|Renee Stauffacher-FTI Representative|
|Tina Piasecki- FESPA Rep|
|Shelcey Garcia-Student Board Member|
|Hunter Perez-Student Board Member|