Osceola superintendent to stay despite criticism

School board member wanted superintendent to resign


OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – A face-off at the Osceola County School Board pit the superintendent against a board member who wanted the superintendent to resign.

But board member Jay Wheeler quickly learned that was a very unpopular move.

Wheeler walked into the meeting Tuesday night armed with data, hoping to force out Superintendent Melba Luciano.

Wheeler sent Luciano a letter outlining her failings and requesting she resign by an "end date of June 30, 2015."

Wheeler listed 10 complaints, many of which seemed minor; everything from an administration member misspelling "deficit," to allowing a district employee to wear sunglasses during a presentation to students.

But Wheeler's chief complaint centered around the district's state standards grades last year -- 19 high schools dropped at least one letter grade, whereas only four high schools went up, he said.

"It was like a kick in the gut getting the results we had from our high schools," Wheeler told the board.

As Luciano blamed changing state standards, her comments were met with applause from an overwhelmingly supportive crowd.

Wheeler dismissed Luciano's statements that falling grades were due in part to changing state standards and said, "Every other school district has had the same things imposed upon them. The state was not conspiring against Osceola. We dropped further faster."

[READ: Jay Wheeler's letter]

Wheeler wanted the board to evaluate her performance, but met with no support and even criticism from parents, Wheeler backed off his initial suggestion that Luciano resign.

"The board decided to move in another direction. I'll support the board. I'll support the superintendent. I need her to do a good job," said Wheeler after the meeting, adding that he "Just did what he thought was right."

The superintendent plans defends her work with data to prove to the board why scores dropped.