Seminole County School Board needs to ‘heal and unite’ after controversial vote

Parents said they are embarrassed on how district handled the process

Seminole County School Board needs to ‘heal and unite’ after controversial vote
Seminole County School Board needs to ‘heal and unite’ after controversial vote

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – After hours of heated public comment, in yet another split decision, the Seminole County Board voted 3-2 to select newly-resigned school board attorney Serita Beamon as the district’s next superintendent Monday night.

“This is incredibly uncomfortable and awkward having to take a deeper dive into hiring decisions while balancing transparency,” School Board Vice Chair Amy Pennock said.

A month earlier, board members voted 3-2 to select Lake County Assistant Superintendent Chad Farnsworth as the next superintendent.

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Two weeks later, the board voted again 3-2 to rescind that vote.

Before last night’s vote, people spoke passionately both for Beamon and against the board’s recission.

“The resounding question we all have is what changed from the time you offered him employment to last week’s meeting where you pulled the rug out from under him,” one speaker said.

Despite Beamon’s lack of administration experience, other speakers praised her time as the school board attorney.

“We have an overly qualified applicant, Mrs. Beamon, who has worked in this system for more than 10 years,” another speaker said.

Since the vote Monday night, 67 people have posted on the Seminole County School District’s Facebook page, most of them blasting the school board for its flip-flop.

“Shame on all of you board members,” one person wrote. “Since it was 3-2 again and not a super-majority, start over.”

“This has become a mockery,” another wrote.

“Will the “do-over” process be allowed for the students who don’t like their test results or disciplinary actions?” another asked.

Seminole Educators Association President Dan Smith said because of the misstep, “the school board has work to do to heal and unite the community.”

A statement emailed to News 6 from the Seminole County School District on behalf of Beamon did not address the controversy.

“I am excited to be offered the opportunity to become the next Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS),” Beamon said. “It is a dream and honor to lead the continuation of excellence that is the hallmark of SCPS. I look forward to working with our amazing School Board, teachers, district leaders, principals, employees, students, and the entire Seminole County community to ensure a world-class equitable education for all students.”

School district spokesperson Michael Lawrence said Beamon will be available for interviews “once there is a signed Board-approved contract, which we hope to get done at the March 9, 2021, School Board Meeting, if possible, pending contract negotiations.”

Lawrence said contract negotiations with Farnsworth had not begun.

“There was not a completed, signed and Board approved contract for Mr. Farnsworth,” Lawrence said. “A contract must be negotiated, then signed, then brought back to the school board for vote/approval before being official. The Board initially voted to select him, but contract negotiations had not begun.”

News 6 Legal Analyst Steven Kramer said that doesn’t mean Farnsworth doesn’t have any legal recourse.

Depending on how much was verbally discussed or agreed to, and if Farnsworth acted based on that information, he may have a case for recourse, Kramer said.

When reached by email, Farnsworth said he was not prepared to make any statements at this time.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.