BY JENNIFER CABRERA
In response to statements made by the public at last night’s school board meeting, alleging that Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon does not have the certificates required by her contract, the school board today released an opinion from their attorney and a statement from Dr. Simon.
The opinion from School Board Attorney David Delaney acknowledges that Dr. Simon does not have the certifications that are referred to in her contract but stated that it is his opinion “that Supt. Simon has not breached the terms of her contract for several reasons.” The first reason is that “the Supt. has not had a change in the status of any certification issued by FDOE [Florida Department of Education] during her employment with SBAC [School Board of Alachua County].” Therefore, since her FDOE certifications expired in 2013, “she has not failed to ‘maintain and keep’ a certification that was not in effect at the time of her employment… Put simply, the contract says ‘maintain and keep’ not ‘obtain’, as she does not currently have a certification.”
The second reason given by Delaney is that the contract places the burden for notification of a chance in status on the superintendent, not on the Board: “There have been no new developments in the certifications of this Supt. during her employment.”
Third, the attorney says the relevant paragraph is an example “of provisions that are in the contract but may not apply to the Supt.’s current situation.” The attorney then repeats the superintendent’s assertion from last night’s meeting that “she is not required by Florida Statute to have a certificate from FDOE to properly serve in her position.”
Dr. Simon also released a statement: “I believe my educational and professional background speaks for itself. Clearly this is a non-issue. It has been promoted primarily by a small group of citizens who are opposed to the district’s strong stand on masks and other strategies for limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and community. I will continue to fulfill my obligation to provide a high-quality education in an environment that is safe for our students and staff, despite both personal and professional attacks. I know our School Board will do the same.”
Attorney Jeff Childers told us that, in his opinion, the board attorney interpreted the word “maintain” incorrectly: “Maintain means she has to keep it in force the WHOLE TIME.” Childers said that Simon has been in breach of the contract from the day it took effect, July 1, 2021.
Attorney Nathan Skop reviewed the contract and the school board attorney’s position and said, “It appears that both the SBAC and Superintendent are making excuses relating to the certification requirement of the Superintendent’s contract. The plain language of ‘maintain and keep current a valid certification in
administration and supervision or equivalent as issued by the Florida Department of Education’ makes it clear that the intention of this paragraph was to require the Superintendent to obtain that certification. If the intention of the contract was for her to maintain her status of NOT having a certification, this paragraph should have been deleted from the contract before it was signed. If the SBAC is not going to give effect to and enforce a provision of a legally binding contract, then the contract should be amended to remove the requirement that they seem to conveniently ignore.”
Skop also referred to the controversy over former Board Member Diyonne McGraw’s residency and the failure of SBAC to redistrict in 2010: “Just like the failure of the SBAC to redistrict, it appears that this contract provision has remained a part of Superintendent contracts as a result of poor legal drafting or the negligence of the SBAC members in failing to actually read and enforce contracts that they approved.”