School Board can't agree on joint statement denouncing out-of-control demonstrations at meetings

'It’s not organized by us. There were bad actors all over,' board member Janet McDonald said.

Colleen Conklin looks at staff presentation materials at the Dec. 7 School Board workshop. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Colleen Conklin looks at staff presentation materials at the Dec. 7 School Board workshop. Photo by Brent Woronoff
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School Board Vice Chair Colleen Conklin thought the board could come together and issue a declaration denouncing hate group activity inside and outside board meetings.

Apparently, she was wrong.

Board member Cheryl Massaro said she was very concerned about protests outside of the Government Services Building during the Nov. 16 School Board meeting in which protesters – some dressed in militia garb – who were seeking to ban the book, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” from school media centers, clashed with students protesting book removals.

“I’m very concerned about actions that took place outside our building, caused by a members of a certain hate group … especially when it’s targeting our students.” Massaro said.

Massaro said many of the demonstrators were not Flagler County residents, but outsiders who were told to come to the meeting.

Conklin suggested a joint statement denouncing the behavior.

But board member Janet McDonald objected.

“It’s not organized by us,” McDonald said. “There were bad actors all over. Everyone has a right to behave within the manner of their demonstrations.”

Conklin said multiple videos showed that hate crimes were committed.

“As a board, we haven’t been collegial to each other. Part of what happened outside has been reflective of what’s been happening inside."


“As a board, we haven’t been collegial to each other,” McDonald said. “Part of what happened outside has been reflective of what’s been happening inside. If we model our best behavior, then we have the right to say anything. But if we’re not demonstrating it, then (we don’t have that right).”

Conklin said she agrees the board sets the tone.

“This has been three months of national news, stories, distractions that have very little to do with education. We set the tone and we have been nothing but a distraction to the school district,” she said.

She went on to say that she was disappointed that the board couldn’t even stand together to state that hate groups will not be tolerated at School Board meetings.

“It’s subjective,” McDonald said. “It’s your perception.”

McDonald said the demonstrations appeared to be staged in video clips.

“Have you watched the videos, Janet?” Conklin asked.

Agreeing with McDonald, board member Jill Woolbright said, “I think we cannot make assumptions on who those people are.”

The board did decide to no longer read virtual comments at School Board meetings, although since this was a workshop, no formal votes could be taken.

The reading of the virtual comments began in the early days of the pandemic when the meetings themselves were virtual. But there was also disagreement on this issue.

“A number of people frankly don’t feel safe to attend our meetings,” Conklin said. “Our school board meetings have been a circus the last three months. And people are sharing they don’t feel safe, whether it’s because of COVID of because of the environment.”

In a live public comment at the end of the business portion of the Dec. 7 workshop, Angela Pascucci agreed with Conklin.

“These meetings do not feel safe,” she said. “I was subjected to two hours of angry armed militia in my face (at the Nov. 16 board meeting), and that was nothing compared to what these kids went through. I hope you will consider leaving virtual comments.”

Woolbright said she would like to return to the pre-pandemic policy regarding the reading of virtual comments at meetings and workshops.

“I’m inclined to not have them anymore,” Massaro said. “Because I feel like the majority are not listening to the virtual.”

The board did agree to allow Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt and district staff meet with Flagler County staff and the Flagler County Homebuilders Association, as requested by the HBA, regarding the district’s impact fee proposal which the county commission has been deliberating.

Mittelstadt said it would be just to have a conversation, because she does not have the authority to make a decision on changing the district’s proposal, which would double impact fees on single-family homes.


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