As Friday evening dumps–the term reserved for major news released at the end of the day Friday, when attention is elsewhere–this one was one of the bigger ones from the Flagler County school district, reflecting an attempt to correct deep leadership issues and previous appointments that hadn’t quite worked out.
Bobby Bossardet, formerly a deputy superintendent in charge of leadership development, was appointed principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School, his alma mater. Paul Peacock, who’d been brought in from Indian Trails Middle School to be deputy superintendent for operations just a year ago, was sent back to a school principalship, at Wadsworth Elementary.
LaShakia Moore was promoted to assistant superintendent of academic services in place of Bossardet, and Dave Freeman, who’d headed plant services, will replace Peacock as chief of operational services.
A district release issued at 4 p.m. portrayed the moves matter of factly, and a district spokesman insisted the moves were not demotions but lateral moves to strengthen leadership at what he described as the “Wadsworth-Buddy Taylor-FPC pipeline.” The claim was more credible regarding Bossardet taking over FPC than it was regarding Peacock, whose tenure at the district had been problematic: Bossardet is still young, versatile and ambitious, his future only burnished by a solid principalship at a high school that’s produced several of Flagler’s superintendents. Peacock is in the twilight of his career. Directors in the twilight of their career don’t take demotions for the team.
Bossardet is a charismatic leader who spent six months as interim principal at FPC in the wake of former principal Tom Russell’s untimely death from Covid at the end of 2020. He is is seen as uniquely qualified to bring back stability and shine to an FPC campus rattled by seesawing leadership over the past three years: Russell’s dynamism was framed by the far less convincing if not wanting tenures of Bob Wallace and Greg Schwartz, both of whom were Volusia imports, both of whom resigned after their first year at FPC, neither of whom seemed to grasp the school’s culture or develop an organic rapport with its occupants. It was no secret that faculty and staff were disenchanted.
The district hosted listening sessions with FPC staff, led by Jewel Johnson, the district’s human resources director, and Jason Wheeler, the district’s chief spokesman and communications director, earlier this week, likely more as confirmation of what it already knew than to investigate what it did not.
“You stated you ‘Needed stability, someone who will lead for at least three years,'” Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt wrote FPC faculty and staff in an email today, summarizing those listening sessions. “You want a leader to ‘…reinstate the incredible culture we had in the past. We need a leader that understands our culture from the past and gets us back to it,’ and a person with ‘a strong vision and mission that ties to the overall mission of the school to include all students in our success plan.'”
Mittlestadt continued: “Bobby Bossardet is coming home. He understands the importance of being a stabilizing force on your campus and is excited to ‘change the game’ at FPC. He has been a close confidant in his role as Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services, but he is ready to lead his alma mater to the next level of greatness.” Mittlestadt said Bossardet would have contact with employees in coming days “to lay out his vision.”
David Bossardet, Bobby’s brother, has been an assistant principal at FPC this year. He will be leaving that position, since he cannot be in a post that reports to his own brother. His next assignment has not been determined.
“We have amazing things happening throughout our district and I believe in the vision moving forward,” Bossardet was quoted as saying in the district’s release. “I have gained a whole new level of respect for the men and women working diligently behind the scenes at the district office for remaining focused and continuing to support our core mission of academic success throughout the last few very challenging years. I know exactly what the Bulldog family is capable of accomplishing, and I am extremely excited for the opportunity to return to FPC to help reestablish the standard for what Flagler Schools is all about.”
The single-line quote from Peacock in the release was more contrived and read like words more extracted than excited: “I am excited to return to a campus where I can have that daily interaction with the students. They are why we do what we do.” He also takes over a campus wracked by instability in its top leadership, but does so after a checkered year as operations director.
A few months ago he came under blistering criticism from several members of the Carver Gym Board of Directors, three of whom–at a meeting of the Bunnell City Commission–openly accused him of deceiving to them, being heavy-handed and dismissive of the board over personnel issues at the Carver Center. He had also developed an elaborate plan for alternative uses of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club that suddenly a few weeks ago was deemed inoperable.
More recently, Peacock (and Bossardet), as part of the district’s negotiating team in collective bargaining negotiations with the teacher and service employee unions, had signed off on a request from the union for insurance rebates–without school board approval. It made the board look bad and damaged trust between the district and the unions.
“They’re obviously well established leaders with a proven track record,” Wheeler said of both new principals. Peacock had for many years been the principal at Indian Trails Middle School, successfully keeping it an A school year after year and developing a folksy culture very much defined by his down-home demeanor. But what works in a school doesn’t necessarily work in a district office, and Peacock may find himself back in his element at a school campus.
For Moore, it’s been a one-way, Space-X-like trajectory since 2017: up. A 2004 graduate of Bethune-Cookman University, where she earned her B.S. in Exceptional Student Education (she earned a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Saint Leo University in 2017), she taught at Rymfire Elementary starting in 2004, moved to the district office in 2017 as a curriculum specialist, and was appointed principal at Rymfire the following year, when Jim Tager was superintendent. She was the top administrator of the year in 2019, and last year Mittlestadt elevated her to Director of Teaching and Learning.
Part of that role included overseeing the district’s school libraries and library curriculums. Over the past year, right-wing zealotry turned school libraries into battlegrounds as citizens and school board members–among them some of Flagler’s own–sought to ban books and curtail permissive access to standard reading lists if those lists were found to contain any titles that transgressed staid subjects. Books on gender, sexuality and anti-racism were especially prone to attacks.
Moore crafted a new library-book-access procedure that managed to win applause even from two sitting school board members who’d joined the book-banning campaigns (Janet McDonald and Jill Woolbright), and the procedure caught attention in the rest of the state, as a model.
“Lashakia Moore truly defines the terminology of an instructional leader,” Tager, the superintendent of Bangor schools in Maine, said today in a text on learning of Moore’s latest elevation. “When I first met Lashakia it was apparent that she understood curriculum for grades Pre-K through grade 12. She is a continuous learner, is inclusive of all learners with the innate ability to create a sense of belonging for all students. Her rise within leadership is not a surprise to me given her disposition to foster positive relationships with students, families, faculty, staff, and community stakeholders.”
All four administrators officially begin their new jobs July 1, when the new fiscal year begins, but will in effect begin taking the reins sooner. Wheeler said their new salaries are not yet available. Their new appointments open up Freeman’s and Moore’s former positions.