Flagler County Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt today announced the appointments of three new principals: Ryan Andrews at Indian Trails Middle School, Travis Lee at Rymfire Elementary, and Erin Quinn at iFlagler, the virtual school.
The appointments dovetail two other, less visible but influential postings at the district office: Marquez Jackson as director of student services and Dontarrious Rowls as director of transportation. The appointments also reflect the superintendent’s pronounced nod to diversity: Rowls, Jackson and Lee are Black, and two of their predecessors were Black, their appointments add to a significantly more diverse make-up in the district’s administrative ranks. The superintendent, District spokesman Jason Wheeler said today, “always said we need to reflect our student population.”
Lee, who’s been with Flagler schools for 17 years, the last six as assistant principal at Rymfire, has not had the smoothest relationship with the district recently: almost a year ago to the day of his appointment, and about two months into Mittelstadt’s tenure, he sued the district in federal court, alleging he was “discriminated against because of his race and national origin.” He’d interviewed for the principalship at Flagler Palm Coast High School in 2019 and was passed over (the district hired Tom Russell, who died last fall), and alleged in his complaint he’d been “denied an opportunity to interview for a promotional Principal position at Belle Terre Elementary.”
He called the district’s interviewing process “discriminatory, unlawful, subjective and arbitrary,” and that the district “willfully, knowingly and intentionally engaged in disparate treatment by selecting and promoting his white colleagues.”
The district in its answer to the allegations denied the claim about the FPC appointment outright, and said the Belle Terre position had been an interim appointment (it had been filled at the time by an assistant principal at the school, after Principal Terence Culver was forced to resign over various allegations). The interim, Jessica DeFord, who is white, was subsequently elevated to permanent principal last November.
It isn’t clear if Lee intends to pursue his lawsuit, since his appointment today appears to make his argument moot. He did not respond to a text or a call to his cell phone, and the district’s attorney had not yet responded to a question about the case. The case was referred to mediation last fall, a requirement of all such cases. There’s been no activity on that docket since last November.
“Flagler Schools does not comment on pending litigation,” the district’s spokesman said, which would suggest that the case is ongoing. “That being said, there was no quid pro quo regarding Mr. Lee and his lawsuit against the district.
Lee holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education and K-12 education from Florida A&M University, an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, and at least four certifications. He replaces LaShakia Moore, who was promoted to a district post earlier this month, at the same time that ex-Indian Trails Principal Paul peacock was promoted.
“Travis has grown tremendously as an administrator under the leadership of LaShakia Moore,” the superintendent said in a statement today. “I am confident that not only will he continue the great programs already established at RES, but will grow them as well.”
Two years ago Lee and his wife, FPC teacher Kimberly Lee, were involuntarily thrust into the limelight when Limberly Lee was the target of vile and racist attacks and death fantasies by two students, who’d exchanged electronic messages about how they’d ambush and kill Lee in terms identical to those used by lynch mobs. One of the students fled the country. The other was charged with a felony, found guilty and sentenced to probation. The incident upended the Lees’ lives.
“I am humbled and excited for the opportunity to lead Rymfire Elementary into this next chapter,” Lee was quoted as saying in today’s district statement. “I look forward to working with our students, families, and the great staff we have at Rymfire as we all work together to raise student achievement.”
Andrews, an assistant principal at Indian Trails for several years, had previously taught history at FPC and coached lacrosse, and has been with the district 16 years. He received his bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Oswego State University in new York and his Master’s in Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
In his statement, Andrews said: “I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of Indian Trails’ legacy of success. The ITMS faculty and staff are made up of dedicated professionals who are amazing at what they do. I will continue to devote myself to our school to ensure we deliver the best instruction and support to our scholars and families. We have a tremendous support network for our school and I am confident that ITMS will continue to be a School of Excellence for years to come! Go Mustangs!”
Erin Quinn, previously the assistant principal of iFlagler, now fills the principal’s role previously filled by Diane Dyer, who had also been a district director. Quinn had overseen the leap in enrollment in iFlagler during the pandemic, turning what had been a small school whose enrollment was in the dozens to one on par with the district’s nine physical campuses. Quinn is a 1997 FPC graduate and a 2001 graduate of Florida State, with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. She earned her M.A. in Education Leadership from Stetson University in 2016. She was the 2019-2020 Assistant Principal of the Year for Flagler Schools and has been with the district for 16 years.
Rowls replaces Andy West as transportation director, after West moved to a similar job in Virginia. Rowls most recently served as Assistant Director of Transportation and Fleet Services for Osceola County Schools. He’s held previous roles of Safety Training and Recruiter, Route Supervisor, and Project Manager in Leon County Schools. He received his bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University in Industrial Organizational Psychology. He also holds a Master of Business Administration in Human Resources Management from Saint Leo University and is a Certified Public Manager, Leadership from Florida State University. Rowls is a doctoral candidate at Virginia University Lynchburg in Healthcare Administration and Organizational Management.
Jackson is filling a new position as student services director, though the position approximates that of director of student and community engagement, which was phased out. The previous post had been filled by Lynette Shott, who retired, then by Earl Johnson, who took a job in Volusia. Jackson graduated from Florida A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education in 1998. He earned his Master’s of School Administration (MSA) from East Carolina University in May 2009 and his Educational Specialist (EdS) in Educational Supervision and Administration from ECU in July 2011.