Infighting concerns resurface after clash between Clay County School Board members

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Hostility at Thursday’s Clay County School Board meeting has parents worried about the infighting amongst board members.

School Board Member Janice Kerekes took to the mic at the end of the meeting and seemed to question whether School Board Chairwoman Carol Studdard is fit to serve.

“I would say my only complaint about that night, Mrs. Studdard, was your behavior -- standing up at the podium, calling me a little b****, which I didn’t appreciate. And I feel like something is wrong and that you get the help that you need. Thank you,” Kerekes said in reference to a confrontation that she had with Studdard at the State of the Schools the week before.

Studdard replied: “Mrs. Kerekes, this is neither the time nor the place to air your dirty linen. And I will not put up with people telling lies about me and insinuating that I don’t know what’s going on. I know exactly what’s going on, Mrs. Kerekes. I owe you no apology.”

Kerekes said: “I think your confusion through all these meetings show that very clearly there is something going on.”

Studdard said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I want you all to know that Mrs. Kerekes and her son have been on the phone and in-person telling people that I don’t know what’s going on, that I can hardly run a board meeting, that I am senile and they’re worried about my mental state. I assure you there is nothing wrong with my mental state. I think it’s rude to bring it up in a board meeting. This is a professional board and we need to act as such. I will not dignify comments like what just came from a fellow board member. If you have a problem, you talk to me but don’t talk behind my back and call everybody in my district to run for my school board seat. It is nasty, it’s conniving, it’s sneaky and it’s dirty."

The meeting adjourned shortly after.

The video of the back-and-forth between the two board members has spread on social media, including the News 4 Clay County Facebook group. Parents on Facebook are now questioning the professionalism of Thursday’s meeting, with one woman writing, “Certainly not ethical and definitely not the type of leadership I want for our schools.” Another person wrote: “They should disguise this behind closed doors not in front of everyone.”

News4Jax on Sunday sat down with Studdard and asked her why the meeting took the turn that it did.

“In hindsight, I regret that I even responded at all. But things have been going on over the last three months and I finally felt the need to defend myself and I have apologized to many people for letting that happen on the board floor. It should have never happened. Our district is too good for that," Studdard said.

Kerekes told News4Jax on Sunday that she was unable to meet, as she was out of town with family, and she sent the following statement:

“I have known Mrs. Studdard for a long time, both professionally and personally. We both deeply care about our schools and will continue conducting the business of the Clay County School Board.”

Thursday’s clash between Kerekes and Studdard was the latest spat on the Clay County School Board, which has made headlines for years because of personal feuds.

In the past, previous Superintendent Addison Davis has told News4Jax he had gotten the board infighting under control. But Thursday’s meeting was the first one without Davis, who is leaving the Clay County School District to assume the role of Hillsborough County superintendent.

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