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Conklin Is Fired From State-Backed Job After Talk of Suing the State Over Education Funding

| April 13, 2011

Colleen Conklin has been a Flagler County SSchool Board member since 2000, and had been the chief operating officer of the Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida's Graduates since mid-2007. (©

Colleen Conklin has been a Flagler County SSchool Board member since 2000, and had been the chief operating officer of the Florida Endowment Foundation since mid-2007. (©

Last Tuesday, Colleen Conklin, a Flagler County School Board member, proposed to her board that the school district consider suing the governor and the state Legislature for failing to adequately fund education. The board agreed to set a meeting to discuss the matter.

Later that week, Conklin was fired from her job as the chief operating officer of the Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates, a Flagler Beach-based, statewide organization funded mostly through state grants. The firing is a stunning development in an association between two like-minded, outspoken women—Conklin and Heather Beaven, the chief executive officer of the foundation—neither of whom is a stranger to public criticism of government’s assaults on education. Beaven hired Conklin knowing her politics and her public advocacy campaigns. It is also a sobering, unsettling indication of the limits of free and open discussion even for elected officials.

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Early this afternoon, the school board meeting scheduled to discuss the lawsuit was postponed indefinitely.

The foundation is the state’s contractor for Jobs for Florida’s Graduates program, which helps some 3,000 adolescent students across the state make it to graduation and beyond with job and leadership skills. The foundation has a budget slightly larger than $1.5 million, employing some 23 people, not counting contractors. It runs various programs and camps for adolescents, including paid internships and developmental skills to 16 to 18 year olds from families with significant problems. Beaven has been the organization’s CEO since 2004. Conklin had been the organization’s chief operating officer since mid-2007, at a salary of around $70,000.

Conklin, sounding devastated this morning, would not address the details of the firing. “It’s my right to say what needs to be said,” she said in reference to last week’s proposal to the school board. “I was elected to do that.” She would not comment beyond that, though she was more expansive on a Facebook posting this morning: “The Truth Shall Set You Free: Here a little TRUTH! (sic.) Last thurs I was asked to resign from my position as the Chief Operation Officer from the Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates, I refused. I was then FIRED! Why? Because I recommended that our school board DISCUSS the possibility of taking legal action against the state!”

Conklin and Heather Beaven had a close working relationship until last week. (© FlaglerLive)

Beaven would not address the matter, either, saying it was a personnel issue. “We’re full-steam ahead,” Beaven said. “This changes nothing in the mission of the organization.” Asked about Conklin’s dual role as a school board member and an executive at the foundation, Beaven said: “She’s done that very well for the four years she was here. She’s balanced that quite well.”

Until, that is, last week, when Conklin’s proposal to the school board appears to have crossed a line in Beaven’s view. Beaven, who is often in the state capital, lobbying for her organization and keeping track of other education-related matters, would not address how Conklin’s proposal to the school board—which has yet to be discussed—impacted her role as a foundation executive.

The Beaven-Conklin association seemed natural: both are strong-minded advocates for education, both are liberal-minded, activist Democrats who don’t mince words, privately or publicly, both have active political and public lives. Last year Beaven ran as the Democratic challenger to John Mica, the Republican congressman representing parts of Central Florida for more than 18 years, including Flagler County.

Conklin is frequently critical of state policy toward education, on and off the school board. That’s not unusual on the Flagler County School Board, whose ex-chairman, Evie Shellenberger, said before she left the board last year that the state was on a crusade to end public education as it’s been known, and replace it with charter schools—a sentiment shared to some degree by the current chairwoman, Sue Dickinson. Conklin’s proposal to sue the state is the culmination of months of talk on the board and within the school district about sever budget cuts that are likely to hurt school programs, either by reducing the length of the school day, elimination several dozen teaching positions, or cutting out actual programs—or a combination of all three.

Citing the wording of the state Constitution regarding education funding, Conklin told the school board last week: “Year after year the state legislature has abdicated this responsibility and has forced local school boards to ensure the adequate funding of our schools through voter referendums and federal stimulus aid. The state knew this funding was going to be depleted this year and has not prepared for this event.”

Beaven has used various public forums, from the campaigns trail last year to her Facebook page to this day, to assail government policy at various levels, though there’s been a distinct line between what she allows herself to say about the federal government, which has no direct bearing on the foundation’s funding, and state government, which does. Her criticism, however, can be as lacerating as Conklin’s:

“WTF Congress?” Beaven wrote on March 2. “We need jobs. Homes. Safe places for our kids to get smart. We need you to stop killing the American Dream so, please, stop worrying about your needs and start worrying about ours!” On March 4, she singled out U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) for weirdly linking Barack Obama to African tribesmen.  “Why is this guy in office? Come on America, we deserve coherent people in Congress!,” Beaven wrote. She’s been far more directly and at times bitterly critical of Mica, her former opponent. (“Would have laughed at (sic.) loud if he wasn’t my Congressman but he is so I am not laughing,” she wrote about him recently.)

The Florida Legislature hasn’t been off limits, either, even regarding education funding, though she’s been more guarded about those comments, as in this one from March 18: “Huh? yup, Florida education has to cut again by over 7.0% … that’s a 7% deeper cut than it was just yesterday.”

For days, Beaven was caustically critical of a the Republican reaction to a Democrat’s invocation of his wife’s uterus in the context of a discussion in the Florida Legislature on privatization and abortion.  “My uterus, or womb (if you prefer),” Beaven wrote on March 31, “gave life to two awesome babies for a total of over 17 lbs. In the making of said babies, I gave each one their very own uterus so I feel a little entitled to talk about it any time and any where I feel like.”

Conklin had felt not so much entitled as elected to address education matters on the school board, as she thought relevant. She had not expected the consequences from a colleague who, from all appearances, spoke, wrote and campaigned with similar language.

53 Responses for “Conklin Is Fired From State-Backed Job After Talk of Suing the State Over Education Funding”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It seems the other side would rather eliminate a contrary opinion than meet it head on. Yet another public advocate loses their job for saying what needs to be said.

  2. revenge of the nerds says:

    See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.

  3. Jim Guines says:

    This rally disturbs me greatly in that Colleen could be fired for doing her job on the school board I will never understand how her supervisor could justify what she did. I felt Colleen made a leadership stand for all of the right reasons.

  4. DLF says:

    This look like good grounds for Ms. Conklin to bring a lawsuit against someone, practice makes perfect. They say if you play with fire you may get burnt. Flagler Live did a great job of being on top of this breaking story even if Ms.Conklin did not want to talk, You just cannot beat good investigative journalism.

  5. Welcome to the USSA says:

    Gee…I didn’t know you could lose your job for voicing your concerns…sounds a tad illegal to me… A lawyer would have a field day with this.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    I see…Rick Scott’s paws all over it! and Mrs. Beaven just the messenger or else she goes into the can herself.. Actually Conklin suggested to sue the new administration under Rick Scott….and not really the state. Looks like open revenge to me.

  7. Rob says:

    Florida is an At Will Employment state as well as Right to Work.
    Florida is very much a pro employer state.

    One without a contract can generally be terminated for good cause, bad cause or no cause. While there may be exceptions they are few and far between.

    As a member of the School Board, Ms. Conklin should have a grasp of the pro employer status that exists in Florida.

    That lawsuit talk was not such a good idea. The people, (tax payers) would have been suing the state,
    (taxpayers). I think another poster saw the irony of such action.

  8. Jojo says:

    Ms. Conklin, I feel tried to justify her position and salary on the School Board by becoming more vocal and forceful. I don’t think she was wrong to say, “Sue the State.” She has a right to say how she wanted the Board to address the funding shortfall.

    Make no mistake that Gov Rick Scott is all over this firing. I call Florida the Communist State because of buffoons and McCarthyism style tactics that pervade this State. Right-to-Work is just an expression that some idiot made up to be able to fire good people like Ms. Conklin.

    We have a dangerous individual who should have never been elected Governor in Florida. When you have people fired that easy for speaking for her constituents in Flagler County there is no telling how far this Governor will go to silence people.

    Now he wants to sell Solantic because of the piss tests he awarded . But wait, he gave it to his wife??? I say start an impeachment and get rid of him. It’s called, “Right to Impeach a Governor.”

  9. DLF says:

    So now we want to blame Scott for this firing, some of you people need to get a life, this was Obama’ s fault all the way. There will be more to this story before it is a dead horse. My bet is there will be no lawsuit because the truth may come out. Lets hope the Flagler Live reporters digs out the rest of the story and reports it , even if they don’t agree with it.The other issue; does anyone really care with all the other important issues at hand?

  10. palmcoaster says:

    Lets go ahead and Impeach for fraudulent legislation passed as conflict of interest and illegal profiteering by his wife.
    This fascist bozo will go illegally and with vengeance against anyone to oppose his dictatorial rule. Recall or Impeach him whatever takes.
    Also to DFL stop bashing and blaming Obama…this was a desicion of Florida government. Obama dissapointed me in some issues like today he exempted the oil companies from the Wall Street trading limit rule and this will allow the oil further trading spike and the increase gouging at the pump.

  11. Merrill says:

    If we are all lucky, our daughters (and our sons), our granddaughters (and our grandsons) will all grow up to be like Colleen Conklin, will all grow up to put the interests of our community, our schools and our children ahead of their own personal interests. She is a profile in courage! She is a model of what a public servant should be!

    When she runs for County Commission, when she runs for the State Legislature, when she runs for Congress, I’m behind her!

    There is a war by Tallahassee against our Flagler County Schools, against free public education in our state,and few besides Conklin are willing to think about fighting back.

    General Conklin: Your troops are behind you!

  12. Tom Brown says:

    We still don’t know precisely if Beaven fired Conklin on her own initiative, or if she was pressured to do so by a state official. Hopefully, a future article will shed more light.

  13. Sherrrrry says:

    For those of you who would like to recall the governor:

    Subject: Floridians Deserve The Right To Recall


    Florida law currently allows for the recall of local elected officials, but there is no provision to allow for the recall of state officials, unlike 18 other states. Engaged citizens deserve the tools to hold their public servants accountable without having to wait for the next election!

    So I signed a petition to The Florida State House, The Florida State Senate and Governor Rick Scott, which says:

    “Create a citizens’ recall process for state elected officials in Florida by passing Rep. Rick Kriseman’s House Joint Resolution 785 and House Bill 787.”

    Will you sign this petition? Click here:


  14. Joe A. says:

    If I shall speak, thy shall be fired.

    The power of King Scott is apparent in Flagler County…. Do I hear RECALL?

  15. says:

    someone higher up told beaven to get rid of her, another example of shut your mouth and do hyour job the way i tell you, the south’s mentality.

  16. Jojo says:

    You are right. There is no provision in the Florida Constitution to recall a Governor or State Legislator. I think it is time to add one for the residents of Florida. This can be accomplished with a referendum by the voters during the next Presidential Election. No one is above the people. LET’S GET TO WORK!


  17. DLF says:

    palmcoaster: making a joke about Obama causing Ms. Conklin to lose her job, he is too busy closing down the prison in Cuba or enforcing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Service Act he signed a year ago and the VA still has not figured out a way to make it work, another of many empty promises. I do get a kick out of everyone thinking Scott has time to be screwing around with such little fish as Ms. Conklin and the silly Flagler School Board. I am sure the real reason for her losing her job will come out in the days to come.

  18. Marshaun Hymon says:

    Ms. Conklin is an awesome women who cares deeply about her students. Not once has she hesitated to help me with any problem that I have had. Even though I am no longer in the Flagler County School System, I have ask Ms. Conklin for help many times. She has NEVER hesitated to speak to me on the phone, email me, or even personally meet me and do whatever she can do to help. She is one of the main reasons I have decided to become a teacher. Education is in need of reform and instead of trying to solve the problem, they get rid of the person trying to solve it.

    Good job! You’ve have just eliminated someone strong enough and dedicated enough to actually to bring about a change!

  19. Joe says:

    Marshaun Hymon says:

    Ms. Conklin is an awesome women who cares deeply about her students. Not once has she hesitated to help me with any problem that I have had. Even though I am no longer in the Flagler County School System, I have ask Ms. Conklin for help many times. She has NEVER hesitated to speak to me on the phone, email me, or even personally meet me and do whatever she can do to help. She is one of the main reasons I have decided to become a teacher. Education is in need of reform and instead of trying to solve the problem, they get rid of the person trying to solve it.

    Good job! You’ve have just eliminated someone strong enough and dedicated enough to actually to bring about a change!

    She is still a board member Marshaun!!!

  20. Stacey says:

    I am proud of Ms. Conklin. We have FREEDOM of speech. This is why we support our troops, so we can continue to have rights as Americans. Ms. Conklin said what many educators have been thinking. The government continues to cut us deeper and deeper and the ones who suffer are THE CHILDREN. These kids are our future. Whether you have kids or not, this upcoming generation is going to take care of us, shouldn’t they be educated? Thank you Ms. Conklin for speaking honestly.

  21. observer says:

    I feel Colleen has the right to say what she feels and not fear for her job. I may not have agreed with all she has said but do agree that she has the right to say it. She has been more vocal than the president of the school board, the president seems to not have an opinion or a voice, worthless.
    Colleen and Chris have been outstanding supporters of the community. They support all the PALS organizations,as well as other organizations in the community. As parents they are always present and willing to do what is needed for the children.
    Flagler County needs more families like this and yet we beat them up over everything. I was appaled at the idea that the kind of car the Conklins drive was even an issue, somebody needs more to do with their life if that is the biggest issue they could come up with. Let me ask those that oppose how many nights have you been off your couch and sitting in meetings trying to get funding, or even programs for the children? Bet not many or any.
    Again I just want to say it is a shame when a family income is in jeopardy because of what you say.
    Something is wrong and I think it goes farther than the newly elected officials. We have lost what America is all about and how we got there, maybe our history classes are falling short on this. We as Americans have a strong and proud history and we should be able to stand up for it .

  22. Dee says:

    ” I believe that children are our future
    Teach them well and let them lead the way
    Show them all the beauty they possess inside
    Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
    Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”

  23. elaygee says:

    Conklin has the right to say anything she likes. She also has to accept the consequences of saying it. Bad choices on her part led to this outcome.

  24. Going Broke says:

    WOW! We all know that education is important. If some of you had paid better attention in your Government and History classes, you would know that suing the state is suing yourself. The state collects and distributes tax dollars… Less tax dollars = Less to spend…. Pretty simple folks: “Don’t put your hat where you can’t reach it”. A lesson, though a difficult one, we can all learn from.

  25. w.ryan says:

    I’m devastated! Colleen I stand with you!

  26. Jim Guines says:

    Colleen is the backbone of this school board, if you take her out of the mix frankly you do not have much left. You need at least one person who can and will provide leadership and has the guts to do what is necessary to fight on behalf of children and teachers. She paid the price for that trait.

  27. anon says:

    To Stacey says.

    What the H do the wars being waged for corporate greed have to do with freedom of speech.

    I don’t support anyone waging wars in foreign soils under the guise of democracy.

    The lady was an at will employee who could be terminated at any time for any reason.
    Get over it. She probably has another excellent paying job already.

  28. Wondering says:

    Hey maybe we should get rid of the President of the school board, all she does is play with the gavel and let the rest of the board take the fall for what happens in the meeting. She is a waste of time and salary. If you have agreed to the job and get paid for the job then do the job.

  29. SoccerMom says:

    When your job is funded by the very people that you are saying that you want to sue…well I am not sure why she is surprised by what happened. It was probably put to Beaven to get rid of Conklin or your funding will be in jeopardy. That is politics as usual, there is nothing shocking about it.
    I am not supportive of the current admin. in Tally, and think that drastic action needs to be taken to preserve the education of our children. I would support strong action from our school board to fight the faulty direction coming from Tallahassee.

  30. Great article, but by gosh, what a strange discussion in the comments.

  31. Jojo says:

    What’s wrong with suing the State of Florida. Ever since Marbury v. Madison, we are granted that very right by the Constitution. It is well settled that many municipalities in this country sue governments that run amok. After all, as a litigious society, it’s better than rioting in the streets, which may still happen the way Rick Scott is turning this State on it’s head. Charging Welfare recipients $35. for a piss test his wife gets a kickback from. Wake up Florida – this man has an axe to grind.

  32. Marshaun Hymon says:

    Yes I know that Joe. When I said “they,” I didn’t mean Flagler County, I meant the Florida Endowment Foundation.

  33. Stir the Pot says:

    I’d bet my last $1 this is how it went down:

    I’m gonna do it……get someone else to say it rather than my xo…….no one will……..then i suggest you don’t, think of the ramifications……..let me think about it…SURPRISE, SURPRISE…i said it….donald trump: “you’re fired”…….but why?… didnt think of consequences, did you?………im suing…….add us to your list.

    Now the question is, will conklin have clas and dignity going out?

  34. lawabidingcitizen says:

    The school board works for the taxpayers and is elected to be their advocate, not to be a cheerleader for the teachers unions.

  35. seaturtle33 says:

    I find all of this to be so unfortunate on so many levels. I absolutely support Conklin for taking the stand that she did. Of course, the most unfortunate part of all of this is that our school board has “postponed” the workshop to discuss suing the state.

    I wish Conklin well and I sincerely hope this does not end her fight for our students, schools, and community.

  36. Liz McLaughlin says:

    To both Jim and Wondering: I’m confused. The way your comments read, it makes it sound like Colleen was fired from the School Board. Jim, you said “Colleen is the backbone of the school board, if you take her out of the mix ………” Wondering you said “get rid of the President of the school board ……. let the rest of the board take the fall …….”
    It is my understanding that Colleen was fired from The Florida Endowment Foundation For Florida Graduates – NOT the Flagler County School Board. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not think you can be “fired” from the school board as it is an elected position. It would have to be a kind of recall from the public, wouldn’t it?
    Anyway, nothing against the work Colleen has done on our school board, but I didn’t know Ms Conklin had another job that paid $70,000 on top of her $30,000 for the school board. This kind of goes to the whole discussion in recent weeks about the board members getting paid such a sum for their positions. On top of that, I have 3 children who went through the Flagler system. I am a very involved parent and thought I was pretty up to date on things in our county regarding education; but obviously, I am not. I have never heard of this Endowment Foundation and 2 of my children graduated from FPC in the not too far past. This whole thing surprised me in more ways than one.

  37. John Smith says:

    I must say that lawabidingcitizen is so well informed on all subjects. Evidently he is very well educated,

  38. Weldon Ryan says:

    Her firing is obviously as a result of her doing her job with the school board. She’s smart enough to know that if a wall is placed in front of progress there must be a way around it. Currently we can’t recall state politicians. If you want a change in politics as usual then check this link out. Does Floridians Deserve The Right To Recall?

  39. Weldon Ryan says:

    The foundation that Colleen Conklin was fired from and the Flagler School Board are jobs to help the people in Florida and the County. In both instances she has done an outstanding job. Why then should the ax fall if she is representing the people she is paid to represent???

  40. Richard says:

    Well on one hand I’m sorry that Colleen has lost some income that her family really needs but, on the other hand, i’m glad she is no longer associated with Beavan’s Foundation. Last time I did research, it struck me as its principal beneficiary was Heather Beavan, and she only employed Colleen for her contact list. Maybe i’m too cynical but Its a sad little secret that a lot of non-profits are non-profit because they pay their officers inflated salaries.

    Anyway, stick to your principals Colleen.

  41. Richard says:

    sorry mixed my principals and principles

  42. Jojo says:

    Didn’t this Beaven run against Mica??? Another useless Republican who’s time has come. Maybe that’s where this is all going. Baggage Beaven doesn’t want if she is making another run for political office. Perhaps Ms. Conklin should run against Mica. I’ll vote for her. Mica is beatable and about time he goes.
    Stranger things have happened between friends.

    Conklin for Congresswoman

  43. Jojo says:

    What better way to bring home the bacon. Ms. Conklin won’t forget her roots. What has Mica brought to Palm Coast or Flagler County for that matter. The new VA Hospital isn’t even that close. A few Flagler County Transportation buses – big deal. Ms. Conklin won’t have to sue anyone to earmark money for teacher pay and better student education in Flagler County. I hope she gets a committee together to explore her options. She has a lot of volunteers in Flagler to run against Mica that’s for sure.

    Conklin for Congresswoman!!!

  44. Wondering says:

    Yes Liz I realize Colleen was dismissed from The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida Graduates but she was representing the wimpy school board at the time. I did not hear any other school board members speak up. That is my point, she was speaking for one group and got fired from another.

  45. palmcoaster says:

    I agree with Richards and Liz. I was totally unaware of “this Foundation” is this organization some kind of secretive one, while should be supportive and or helping our high school seniors in financial need of jobs to sustain their rip off college education? Aside from the fact that I think that was wrong the firing of Conklin for speaking against the new Florida state administration tactics, I think the following: One, I never heard before of this foundation why is that?. Two a budget of 1.5 million and the second in command get paid $70,000 plus probably travel expenses, etc.Then how much Beaven makes being her boss double maybe $140,000 and what about all the other 23 and for a probably part time job? I believe that the beurocratic pays in this foundation probably do not justify the help those kids get and that is one reason to keep it out of the limelight! Some one come up with the goodness fulfilled by this foundation and records of achievements, please? How many kids benefited per year? Maybe some can of worms had been opened here. How many of these foundations in Fl and the nation on my taxpayers pocket? We have all these state, federal organizations and lotteries supposedly benefiting education and the system is still depleted of sufficient funds. Something wrong with this picture.

  46. palmcoaster says:

    For Liz;
    Tried higher taxes in liquor for the foundation….?

    Ms Beaven while running against Mica registered a home town in
    Ka City?

  47. palmcoaster says:

    Sorry, again:
    Mrs. Beaven running against Mica showed a home town in Kansas City?

  48. Haw Creek Girl says:

    Merrill, I could not have said it better myself. If you look up a definition of a defender, protector and eductor in the dictionary…..there will be my friend Colleen Walsh’s picture. Proud to be her friend, always.

    on and btw, what have you done to make our kids education better? oh wait, I’m not sure silience is “typing”

  49. Monica Campana says:

    JFG is no secret. It was all over the news when ITMS and MHS took home national honors.
    Colleen is a hard worker, great leader and a thoughtful intelligent person. She went to bat for the future of this state which is at risk. Wishing her all the best and much success in her future endeavors.

  50. Woody says:

    Seems obvious that biting the hand that feeds you will get you bitten. Freedom of speech comes with consequences.

  51. Thinkforyourself says:

    Woody you’re right, sounds like Conklin should have kept her mouth shut and continue to accept the beating the legislature and Governor were laying on her kids and staff. To hell with those she was elected to protect, she’s a fool to stand up to the bullies and lose such a nice income for her family. I guess you’re right we should have elected officials who should shut their mouths in fear of retaliation and give up their Freedom of speech.

  52. dannyO says:

    I’m way up here in New York City so, admittedly, I’m not familiar with the political goings-on down your way in Flagler. However, I do have an interest in this as I had the honor of working alongside Colleen when she was a teacher at P.S. 5 in Washington Heights some 15 years ago. Based on what I did witness all those years ago, I am confident that the students, parents, teachers, and administrators of Flagler are blessed to have Colleen as an advocate. She was (is) an amazing educator, absolutely dedicated to her students who, to this day, continue to espouse the positive effect that she has made on their lives. Again, not to get involved in your family business down south, however I know for a fact that Colleen is a person who has walked the walk to improve the education of our youth. I have seen it. And it is unfortunate that talking the talk toward that same goal could get you fired.

    Keep your chin up Ms. Walsh. And Don’t Stop! (I know you won’t :-)

  53. Greta says:

    The thievery being committed by our ponlacitis is extremely sickening. Libs are in love with taxes. We should be able to force these libs to pay high taxes somehow.

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