School Board members Carl Persis, Anita Burnette respond to being on DeSantis' 'target list'

According to news reports, the board members were placed on the "target list" for being "lifelong Democrats, the whole package — masking, transgenderism, wokeism."

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  • | 9:30 a.m. February 28, 2023
  • Ormond Beach Observer
  • Opinion
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Last week, in a meeting with House Speaker Paul Renner, Moms for Liberty and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Gov. Ron DeSantis identified 14 school board members in Florida he wished to remove from office next election due to their "woke" ideologies, according to a report by Fox News. 

Two of the board members are from Volusia County: District 4 School Board member Carl Persis and District 2 School Board member Anita Burnette. According to news reports, the board members were placed on the "target list" for being "lifelong Democrats, the whole package — masking, transgenderism, wokeism."

The Volusia County School Board is nonpartisan.

This isn't the first time a Volusia County School Board member has been targeted for removal; In 2022, the governor endorsed Fred Lowry to replace District 1 School Board member Ruben Colon. Colon won the race with 51.34% of the vote in the primary election.

The Observer reached out to Persis and Burnette about the target list. Here's what they had to say. 

Persis: An open letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis

Dear Honorable Governor Ron DeSantis:

I wish we could get together to discuss the many challenges students face, as well as the many wonderful opportunities they have, in Florida’s public education system. As a former Volusia County teacher, assistant principal, and principal for 35 years, a proud graduate of Seabreeze High School, and a six-year member of the Volusia County School Board, I am aware of Volusia’s history and the ups and downs in public education.

While the state of Florida uses a combination of state’s sales tax revenue and local property taxes to fund public education, each district’s locally-elected nonpartisan school board members make policy decisions and hire their superintendents and their school board attorneys. Since the Florida Constitution requires school board office holders to be nonpartisan and to not campaign in a partisan manner, I was disappointed you chose to apparently endorse school board members on a partisan basis in 2022.

At a meeting in which you participated on Feb. 21, 14 school board members, all of whom are not registered Republicans, were labeled as incumbents to unseat in 2024. According to a Fox News report, the purpose of the strategy session was to identify school board members who according to you donot protect parental rights or shield students from “woke” ideologies.

With all due respect, I have never heard the word “woke” at a Volusia County School Board meeting and I have not been accused of not protecting parental rights. According to a local Moms for Liberty leader, my name is on this list because on Aug. 31, 2021, I voted with the majority to require students to wear masks, which was ruled on Aug. 27, as on option by Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper. In Volusia, students were to be required to wear masks starting on Sep. 7.

Then on Friday, Sept. 10, the First District Court of Appeal voted to overrule Judge Cooper and allow your executive order to ban districts from requiring students to wear masks to take effect. As a result of this ruling, the Volusia County School Board, at its next meeting on Sep. 14, voted unanimously to make mask wearing optional for students and staff. Therefore, the Volusia School Board was legally out of compliance with your executive order for two days. With the Court of Appeal ruling occurring on a Friday, principals were informed on Monday, Sep. 13, to not enforce the mask wearing requirement. No student was ever disciplined for not wearing a mask.

You and I want Florida public school students to have a world class educational system. We both want civics education, expanded workforce development and career technical education. We both see the need to increase teacher salaries, provide safe and secure schools, and support mental health initiatives.

In Volusia County, the five school board members are a dedicated, compassionate, respectful and hardworking team. We take our responsibilities and duties seriously and we stay in our lane. Superintendent Balgobin does a fantastic job and keeps us informed on a daily basis.

Finally, I want you to know, in addition to my educational career, I am a former Ormond Beach City Commissioner, Ormond Beach Mayor and former member of the Volusia County Council. I am proud of my record of service and consider it an honor to serve the public. Especially, as a school board member, I can do what I do best; advocate for students and be a champion for children.

I believe you care. My record demonstrates I care, too. My hope is we can get together soon.


Carl Persis

Volusia County School Board, District 4

Public service, not politics

While there is a difference of my position way up from Tallahassee, I cannot concern myself with that as I was elected locally to serve the needs of our parents and students here. 

I appreciate the outpouring of support locally from those who see the job I do and support me with the challenges we have here to face. I wasn’t elected to play politics with our students. 

We will continue to work together to raise accountability and support those who support our students, whether it is parents, educators, staff, or our precious volunteers. That continues to be my focus.

Anita Burnette

Volusia County School Board, District 2


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