- November 28, 2022
The Volusia County School Board tends to be split when it comes to controversial or challenging votes, but when it came to choosing the district’s new superintendent, the board members were unanimous: They want former Deputy Superintendent Carmen Balgobin.
At the board’s meeting on Tuesday, May 10, the School Board voted to appoint Balgobin as the superintendent for a three-year term, pending the negotiation of an employment contract. The board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. If she accepts the district’s proposal, she would transition into the position in July.
Balgobin began working at VCS in January 2020, and served as the interim superintendent from July 2020 to February 2021 while former Superintendent Scott Fritz was out on medical leave. She left VCS in late March to accept a deputy superintendent position with Broward County Public Schools, though the board hinted that she left under duress.
“You don’t know the true story of why she left,” School Board member Jamie Haynes said. “You don’t know what happened. I know what happened and I know why she left, and I said to her, ‘You have to go’ when she told me what was happening because no one deserves to be harmed or hurt. We’re here to educate kids and take care of people.”
Members of the public spoke against the board’s decision, asking them to go through a formal process to hire the next superintendent. They questioned the decision not to advertise the position. One speaker, teacher Karen Weinrich, said hiring a superintendent “without a fair and open process” would mean losing the trust of the district’s employees, students, parents and community members.
“Dr. Balgobin may very well be the best candidate for the job, but unless the process is done fairly, she will have a very difficult job ahead of her,” Weinrich said.
Volusia United Educators President Elizabeth Albert said that the night’s vote would send “a very strong message to the employees within Volusia County Schools.”
“It’s either going to tell them that you value their input, want to hear their voice, address their concerns and create a fair process, or it’s not,” Albert said.
The board defended its stance during the discussion. School Board member Carl Persis said Balgobin served as interim superintendent during the bulk of the COVID-19 pandemic, having navigated the reopening of schools and the expansion and staffing needed to provide a virtual education option.
“Dr. Balgobin led the district intelligently and calmly through these very, very stressful times and did so without having a deputy superintendent to assist her,” Persis said. “Let’s be clear, Dr. Balgobin is not a female version of Dr. Fritz. She has an outgoing, very friendly, engaging personality and takes time to listen to everyone.”
Interim Superintendent Rachel Hazel was asked for her opinion, and she said that having worked directly with Balgobin, she described her as smart, kind and “a champion for students.”
“She is relentless in her pursuit of taking care of students and staff,” she said.
Chair Ruben Colon said he spoke with Balgobin the day he heard she would be leaving VCS. It was then she shared details of her situation at the district. The board didn’t share details; they felt it was her story to tell.
“Unfortunately procedurally, we did not have the time to do what we needed to do,” he said.
Colon continued by saying Balgobin was present during the creation of the strategic plan, and hearing her speak about the district’s accomplishments made him aware of “who was doing the work.”
Colon said he felt the board’s wish to install Balgobin as its new superintendent wasn’t a secret; they had openly discussed it in past meetings. He said they had agreed to do a search, only if she turned the district down.
“For me personally, this is succession planning,” Colon said. “This is what we wanted. We wanted a deputy who could step up and she did already.”