With cake, brief tributes, symbolic gifts, and a surprise drop-in from Cairo by former Superintendent Bill Delbrugge (by way of Skype), the Flagler County School Board Monday evening bid farewell to Evie Shellenberger, who sat for her last meeting of the board. For eight years, she was the board’s most tempered and compassionate voice—and at times its tactically most blunt. She was elected eight years ago. She announced in April that she would not to run again.
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Shellenberger’s replacement will be decided today. It’ll be either John Fischer (who lost against Shellenberger four years ago) or Raven Sword, whom Shellenberger is openly backing. Sword was in the audience Monday. Fischer was not.
No stranger to tears, Shellenberger was alternately teary, nostalgic and shaman-like as she spoke of her colleagues and career, and of her intentions in the future. “I’ll miss you all too,” she said to the board at the very end of the meeting, what would prove to be her last as a board member, “but I’m not going very far. I’m a little bit like Jimmy Carter. I’m going to have power off the board.”
After her fellow board members had paid brief tribute to her earlier, Shellenberger gave them a parable about sandspurs—which hurt, cling, anger and seem to have no good purpose but to injure “You must know some people who are very much like sandspurs,” she said. “They are prickly, they stick to you when you’re not looking, can be painful and are difficult to rid of. But here’s the thing. Sandspurs didn’t ask to be sandspurs, and people who are like sandspurs, didn’t ask to be prickly. More important, you know you didn’t do anything that deserves to be stuck by a sandspur. It just happens. It is painful. But you can make it less painful if you don’t get trapped in your thoughts about the sandspur. Or the sandspur person.” She then turned the tables on herself and described the night when she “exhibited a little sandspur personality” toward Andy Dance, and apologized to him.”
She then described her routine on the Greater Good website, which she visits every day. The site makes it easy to “protect the health and well-being of people, animals and the planet” by raising money for causes such hunger, mammograms, rainforests and animal rescue. The causes are close to Shellenberger’s heart. One of them includes the sponsoring of education for girls in Afghanistan. “I have made a donation in each of your names to this so each of you have funded two girls to go to school for an entire year,” she told the board members, including the superintendent and the two student board members.
Colleen Conklin was charged with explaining a half dozen symbolic gifts from board members—a clip signifying Shellenberger’s unifying strength, life-savers (“many times on many issues you’ve been a life saver to many of the students in our district”), and so on.
As he has in the past, Bill Delbrugge, the former superintendent, managed to upstage the send-off all the way from Cairo. He was piped in by Skype, his midnight face (it was about 6:30 p.m. in Bunnell, half past midnight in the Land of Mubarak) filling every computer screen and overhead flatscreen in the chambers, and his voice sounding as present as if her were there in person.
“Hello my beautiful board how are you,” he boomed, using the same line he;’d used in countless videocasts to his board. “Shake and bake Janet Valentine, shake and bake.”
“Just send me a ticket,” Shellenberger told him.
“Hey, you’re retired there now. We have a teaching position for you.” He wasn’t kidding. Delbrugge once referred to Flagler County’s “brain drain” as something the district and economic development had to battle. He’s been one of the drain’s principal causes, taking with him several teachers to the American school he directs in Egypt. He then paid his own tribute to Shellenberger, who played a pivotal role in elevating him from principal of Flagler Palm Coast High School to superintendent in 2003.
“There are some people that are just irreplaceable,” Delbrugge told Shellenberger. “You are definitely one of those. I will never forget both in my time as principal at FPC and then when y’all were crazy enough to hire me to be superintendent for a little while, the advice and guidance that you gave us was just amazing. But more important than that Evie is, there are just a few people in the world, I think, that know how to put all the stuff aside and to make sure that we do the right thing, we do it because we’re taking care of people and not just content and politics and everything else that goes with it., and you’re so special because you can cut through all that and you can make sure we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons., and that is because it’s good for people. You are such an inspiration. I’ll tell you, I’m partly the person I am today because of being in contact with folks like you.”