School board member: Focus on real issue

Residents to decide in November how superintendent will be chosen

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. - The Clay County School Board meeting Thursday night was a heated one, with lots of emotion and even yelling, something board member Carol Studdard said is unacceptable and embarrassing.

But she said that's not what people need to be focused on. She said the important decision of whether the superintendent should be appointed or elected is now in the hands of Clay County voters. It's something Studdard said should have been done a long time ago.

"Excuse me. Excuse me. I have the floor," Studdard told one audience member at the meeting. "I am a school board member. Either sit down -- if you get up again or speak out you will be removed."

Studdard said Friday that sometimes people from the community who attend the meetings can make things more difficult.

"Instead of wanting to talk about things to help us in educating the students, it seems their motive seems to be to bash on, call names," Studdard said. "We have been called every name in the book."

The hot topic at the meeting was over the 3-2 vote of board members to give Clay residents something new to vote on in November -- whether or not the Clay County Schools superintendent position should be appointed or elected.

Since 1992, the position has been elected and people in the community have had no say so on whether the position should be appointed or elected. Studdard said that needs to change.

"The county has grown up enough now to where they deserve the option to vote on this, and if they want an appointed (superintendent), fine. If they still want an elected (superintendent) that's fine, too, but it's their choice," Studdard said.

She said with more than 35,000 students in Clay County, the people should have a voice in how the leader of their schools is chosen. But not everyone believes changing to an appointed superintendent will necessarily be the best option.

Mike Wingate, director of academic support services, said the school district has continued to move in the right direction, and some people feel, why fix something that's not broken?

"Personally, I've worked for three superintendents as an administrator over the last 15 or 20 years," Wingate said. "Clay County has always done well. Right now a lot of folks in the school system really don't see the necessity of doing this."

If voters in November choose to keep the superintendent position an elected one, everything will stay the same. If they choose to change it to an appointed one, they will then have to decide how the process will take place and who will decide.

Some people worry that it would be decided by the five school board members, but Studdard said she hopes a citizens committee would be formed that would help board members in making the decision of who to appoint.

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