Below are the news briefs from the Leon County School Board meeting that took place on January 10, 2022.
The Leon County School Board received a notice from the Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA) alleging the textbook selection process initiated in 2021 for the 2022-2023 school year violated the Sunshine Law. The school board disagreed that the process they used was in violation, so in order to avoid litigation.
The issue at-hand was whether or not there was adequate public notice for parents to offer input to the textbooks. Billy Epting went before the board and stated that when the school district adopted their procedures for ELA curriculum in the Fall of 2021 they “published on the instructional materials webpage of the Leon County School system all of the dates and committee and the dates they were going to meet.” Epting stated that the public had opportunity to weigh in.
The resolution that the school board adopted stated: “Superintendent Hanna recommends the Board review and approve textbooks for the 22/23 school year to determine if the textbooks are consistent with state and local standards, following public input and Board review of the textbooks, and consideration of any objections to adoption filed by parents or residents of the county.”
Board Member Darryl Jones noted towards the end of the meeting how he is seeing certain school districts get particular “legislative appropriations” and he is hoping the same can happen for Leon County Schools. Notably, he would be seeking state and federal legislation related to projects or “construction.” Jones sought input from other board members about the proper way to go forward.
Board Member Marcus Nicholas offered support for Jones’ recommendations saying he recently pulled a report of schools receiving appropriations and said “we have to start looking for different revenue sources for our district.”
Jones and Board Chair Alva Swafford Smith suggested going to newly-elected State Sen. Corey Simon and discussing appropriations with him.
Board Chair Swafford Smith also made note that one of the things to remember going forward is that there is “much worse than a disconnect between our district and the state administration currently,” referencing the disagreements and divide between Leon County School and the Gov. Ron DeSantis administration. She also said that the school board, going forward, could be “less combative” when confronting the DeSantis administration.
Board Member Marcus Nicholas took a moment to address a recent article in the Tallahassee Democrat which highlighted the amount of suspensions Leon County Schools has been witness to. He stated he wanted to “dispel the myth” that LCS are “suspension factories.” He said that he was sure the Tallahassee Democrat did not intend to do harm, but he said they were only using raw data without context.
He said that the board will be having a workshop coming up that will address suspension/expulsion rates and ways the district uses numerous resources to limit the amount of suspensions that take place.
Board Chair Swafford Smith read a statement directed towards LCS instructional staff. The statement comes after some teachers have expressed questions about classroom instruction to the district. Swafford Smith stated:
“As a member of the Leon County School Board, and in consultation with our board attorney, I believe it is now necessary to unequivocally state that all instructional staff are obligated not only to teach the standards but to follow the law. While I’m confident that each member of our instructional staff understands their obligations under the education code and daily rule, please be advised, contrary to recent communication, that if there is an intentional violation of statute, and information is taught which is prohibited by law, you will not be covered under our insurance policy, nor will our attorneys represent anyone in our district who has intentionally broken the law.”
Superintendent Rocky Hanna concluded the meeting by announcing that LCS, as part of its Safe Schools Initiative, is expanding after-school armed security coverage to all sites moving forward.
The full meeting can be viewed here.