Students rally after Lake County teacher's contract not renewed

Teacher debating whether to run for Lake County School Board

UMATILLA, Fla. – Some students at a Lake County high school dressed in black Wednesday to show their support after they learned a teacher's contract was not being renewed. 

Chris Barnhart, who was was named rookie teacher of the year at Umatilla High School last year, was notified by the principal about a week ago that he would not be returning as a digital design teacher at the school. 

"I asked if there was a candidate in mind. He said yes, from somewhere else in the district," Barnhart told News 6. "I'm still employed by the district so there's some things I can say and some things I can't." 

He did say that he is currently on administrative assignment from the district after administrators said he made an inappropriate post on Facebook. 

He also alluded several times that he's not sure if his possible run for a seat on the Lake County School Board played a role in him being let go. 

"When those words come up that I may be running or thinking about running, these kinds of things tend to happen to me," he said.  "I really want to run for school board but don't know if I will." 

While Barnhart said he's still unsure about running for the school board, it appears he set up a GoFundMe page titled "Barnhart for school board" in just the past few days. 

An online petition set up in support of Barnhart has already garnered more than 700 signatures.

Snapchat photos provided to News 6 show some students at Umatilla High School wearing black to school on Wednesday, as a show of support for Banhart. 

A representative with the Lake County School District said, "The decision not to renew Mr. Barnhart's contract has nothing to do with his interest in a school board seat." 

In the state of Florida, teachers are legally allowed to run for school board in the district where they are employed.

The district also provided a copy of Barnhart's personnel file. In January, Barnhart appears to have been warned by school administrators after five petitions in support of his school board candidacy ended up being given to other teachers, which violates school policy.

Barnhart said it was a mix-up and he had thought the envelopes contained his New Year's cards.  

Barnhart has been told by school administrators that he will stay on administrative assignment until the investigation is complete. 

About the Author: