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Former Duval School Board members get new district jobs

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two former Duval County School Board members whose last days on the board were just about two weeks ago, already have new positions with the school district.

Paula Wright and Becki Couch, who each served as board chair at one point during their eight years, recently ended their time on the board because they reached their term limits of two four-year terms.

Wright was appointed to her new position with the district November 20th, the same day new board members were sworn in. She is now one of three AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Coordinators in the turnaround region. The district said she will work to close the achievement gap by preparing students for college readiness and success in a global society.

Prior to her time on the school board, Wright was a coordinator in the district’s Acceleration Program. District spokesperson Dr. Tracy Pierce said that position was similar in scope to her current role.

Wright’s new salary is $60,000. A school board member makes about $42,000 each year.

Pierce said Couch’s new position is an instructional specialist in the district’s human resources department. She was interviewed and selected for the role. The district said she will be engaged in supporting teacher recruitment and new teacher development. She began work December 3rd and her salary is $57,605.

Couch was a teacher prior to being elected to the school board so the district says it’s pleased to have another lifelong educator on the team.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene may be excited to still have the two within the district, but another former board member Scott Shine, said these positions seem arranged and not in the best interest of the community.

“Prior elected school board members should be allowed to apply for jobs and work for the district after their tenure on the board is over,” Shine said in a statement he sent to News4Jax. “However, awarding these positions only 11 work days after the end of their time on the board suggests impropriety and influence that is inappropriate in an institution accountable to the public.”

Pierce said board policy allows employees to take leave to run for and serve in elected office. Now that their service has completed, he said these employees are properly returning to jobs very similar to those they held prior to their elections.

The full-time positions are not new, but were vacant.

Dr. Greene said Couch and Wright are strong educators with a tremendous knowledge base of the district’s schools and the community.

“The fact that they want to continue serving our teachers and students in these relatively modest roles is a credit to their sense of service,” Dr. Greene said. “I have no hesitation in making these appointments as has been done in the past with employees returning from the board.” 

Wright said, “My whole life has been dedicated to helping children in Duval County. I’m excited to be in a place where I can again directly help Duval students discover and develop their motivation for academic and life success.”

A statement from Couch reads:

I was delighted to conclude my board service, and apply for and be selected for this job. It will enable me to continue to support the profession I love, which is teaching and impacting students’ lives.

Wright and Couch will join about 11,800 full-time employees of the Duval County School District.