Though he says Colleen Conklin’s decision to step away from the school board renders many of his questions “mostly moot,” School Board member Trevor Tucker still wants Attorney General Ashley Moody to answer them in a formal, written opinion, to ensure that the board’s process is legal and ethical.
Conklin, a school board member for the past 20 years currently finishing her fifth term, last week joined 34 other applicants for superintendent. Flagler Superintendent Jim Tager retires in June. The school board will decide on a replacement on March 10. Meanwhile, it is going through the application process and will be conducting interviews in early March. Conklin on Tuesday announced she would step away from the board entirely and will not attend any meetings or functions until March 17 to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Tucker on Friday sent a set of five questions to the attorney general in a one-page letter on what he called “this unprecedented matter,” reflecting his concerns that absent further guidance, the school board could be opening itself up to litigation, if not to ethical charges levied at individual school board members.
“A lot of this is to cover me, I don’t want to get an ethics violation if this is wrong, or if something is wrong in the future,” Tucker said. “The AG opinion will really help. I want the process to be done correctly. That’s the most important thing, in my opinion.”
Conklin’s decision to step away answered the first and third questions in Tucker’s letter: she is no longer an “active” member of the school board, and she has recused herself from everything that has to do with the appointment. But other questions remain: “If the member has worked on salary and job description for the new superintendent, can they still apply?” Conklin did have a hand in that decision, though the job description is essentially identical to the description that led to the appointment of Tager.
School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin said on Tuesday that none of the decisions that were part of the superintendent search were 3-2 votes where Conklin’s could then have played a swing role.
Despite the recusal, however, Tucker is asking the attorney general whether there are “steps that need to be taken by the District to
be sure the process is not compromised.” The district has taken such steps, among them the removal of four people Conklin had named to the Citizens Advisory Committee, which met for the first time Tuesday evening to draw up a list of 10 to 12 names from the 35 applications. The committee is charged with filtering the applicants and recommending top choices.
Tucker’s final question is forward-looking: “If my fellow board member does not have to resign from the Board, is she only recused from the process while she continues to be a viable candidate?” Tucker asks. “In other words, if she does not make it past the first stage of the vetting process as a candidate presented to the Board for consideration is she able to return to the Board to select the Superintendent?”
Conklin appears to have largely answered that question by saying she would sit out the process through March 10, which means that even if she were to not make it past the committee’s selection process, she would not take part in the interview process.
Tucker said the letter he wrote the attorney general is not a reflection of his opinion about Conklin’s candidacy. “I don’t really have much opinion one way or the other,” he said. “I wish there was some case law or guidance before this, but there isn’t. No, I have no problem whether she applied or not.”
Tucker overnighted the letter to the attorney general’s office on Friday, and will be calling the office today or tomorrow in hopes of getting some clarity about whether an opinion can be forthcoming within the school board’s selection time frame.
“The worst thing that can happen here is we go through this process and then we get sued and we have to start all over,” Tucker said. “We may not get a GA opinion or it may take too long, or ‘hey I don’t want to address this issue, good luck,’ but at least I’m asking so maybe we can get some advice.”
The CYA letter to the Attorney General cannot diminish the appearance of impropriety around this process.
Number 1, she should have resigned from the school board if she intended to apply for a superintendent position with the district. Number 2, although she is a professor, she is not a professor in Educational Administration. Number 3, she has no prior experience as a school district superintendent. Being on a school board is vastly different from being an on the deck administrator. You have to have been an educator in the first place, and made your way up the ranks just like every other qualified superintendent. You have to understand best instructional practices, budgeting, scheduling, dealing with individual schools and teachers, not to mention irate parents. And advocating for school funding from the state and federal government. And much more. All the while developing a master plan to bring the schools up to a level of excellence. School board members only deal with minimal decisions compared to a school superintendent. As a former school administrator I know what it takes to be a superintendent. As a school principal and special education administrator, I worked closely with superintendents to make sure our schools were complying with all district, state, and federal guidelines. The role of a superintendent is not an enviable position. It requires a seasoned professional to be a successful superintendent. Why in the world would anyone want to hire a long time “nice” school board member unless they were a licensed superintendent? Holy cow! Talk about a complete conflict of interest! If this district even considers hiring her I will be dumb founded and I hope the really qualified applicants file a law suit for a breach of ethics and bias. This whole thing stinks to high heaven. If she applied for a superintendent at any other school district, she wouldn’t even be considered a viable applicant.
Weldon Ryan says
She’s been with Flagler Schools for years. What do you mean she has no experience. What is your purpose if not smearing her!
Next election Please ! says
This is what our school board does ? Leave the woman alone ! She puts in 20 years on the school board, desires to better herself and Flagler Conty Schools.
However Mr. Tucker wishes to waste taxpayer and the Attorney Generals time to get his 15 minutes of fame. For who besides Mr.Tucker ?