Citizen calls for appointed superintendent
Concerned citizen approaches school board to request change to appointed school offical
NICEVILLE — Niceville resident Christi Moore approached the Okaloosa County School Board Monday night to call for changing the county school superintendent's position from an elected to a board-appointed position.
According to Ballotpedia.org, only 13 states in the country still operate with an elected superintendent or chief of schools, Florida being one of them.
“We currently elect the superintendent, which means when Okaloosa County is in the news, we don’t necessarily have recourse to do anything about it unless the governor steps in,” Moore said. “With all the controversy that is going on and the fact that we have a superintendent in place who is doing a tremendous job, but based on a technicality with the Supreme Court, he could get removed and then go back to the old superintendent.
"Well, none of this makes sense.”
The Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) has been torn by controversy since August 2017, when a parent, Eddie Perillo, came forward with information that his autistic son had been physically abused while attending an Okaloosa County school. The information led to a series of investigations and lawsuits, ultimately ending in eight OCSD school district employee arrests.
Shortly after taking office in January, Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended OCSD Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson and appointed Assistant Superintendent Marcus Chambers to the position.
“I know this was on the ballet a long time ago, maybe 20 years ago, and did not pass,” board member Dewey Destin said. “While I agree with almost all the points you made, it may be a difficult issue to get through. I’m always ready to talk about it because it is an issue that seems pretty antiquated the way we are doing it.”
“While people may be frustrated, they don’t seem willing to give up their vote,” added board member Linda Evanchyk.
Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux told the Daily News that the school board must be the catalyst for such a change.
"The law actually says the superintendent can be elected or appointed," Lux said. "If they (school board members) want to change that, they have to put a referendum in front of the voters to make that change."
Lux said that the earliest the referendum could be placed on a ballot would be on the March presidential preference primaries in 2020. Even if the referendum passed, Lux said, any superintendent that had been previously elected would have the right to serve the rest of their four-year term before the new system would go into effect.
For example, neighboring Escambia County moved from an elected to an appointed superintendent of schools in November of last year. However the process will not take effect until the current superintendent, Malcolm Thomas, fulfills his term in 2020.
For her part, Moore said she believes it is in the county’s best interest to move to a board-appointed superintendent position in the near future.
“What worries me again is that based on a technicality we could certainly be embroiled in all types of turmoil that just can’t serve the best interest of our students or the faculty or staff of this school district,” Moore said. "I think this whole process needs to be fixed, and I think if we go this way, we will never have this problem again."