Hunt approached former principal about superintendent role

School Board member Sally Hunt said discussion with Dusty Sims was not part of a grand plan to install him as superintendent.


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  • | 6:11 p.m. March 21, 2023
School Board member Sally Hunt has been outspoken about holding discussions on Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt's contract renewal as soon as possible.
School Board member Sally Hunt has been outspoken about holding discussions on Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt's contract renewal as soon as possible.
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Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt’s contract expires at the end of June, and the School Board is scheduled to discuss her future with the district at an agenda workshop on April 4, with a potential vote at the April 18 board meeting.

But School Board member Sally Hunt met independently with former Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Dusty Sims in February and asked him if he’d be interested in becoming Flagler Schools’ next superintendent. Hunt had been introduced to Sims by Wadsworth Elementary School Principal Paul Peacock, who has an ongoing grievance case against the school district and Mittelstadt over a demotion. Hunt met with Sims at Wadsworth. She told the Observer she was just doing her due diligence.

Sims, who is now the Florida Department of Education’s lead state executive director for school improvement, said he told Hunt that he “was always open to conversations about positions, but that position is not open so the conversation can go no further.”

In a phone interview with the Observer, Hunt said she is concerned about the state of Flagler Schools and Mittelstadt’s leadership. She cited an audit showing that a large percentage of background checks were not being completed, and said that while student safety is her priority, she is also concerned about the state of “communication, culture and fiscal responsibility in the district.”

When a school board member contacts me, it’s part of my job to meet with them. — DUSTY SIMS

Hunt said that as the district is the largest employer in Flagler County, the role of the superintendent is like a CEO and goes beyond education.

“It’s a very large organization and really needs a leader who understands HR law and just so many competencies, above and beyond what a principal would need to know, for instance,” she said.

When asked if she thought Mittelstadt was not the type of leader the district needed, Hunt said that’s what she hopes to find out.

“I’m asking some follow-up questions right now, but there are some things that have concerned me that could show me that perhaps her background is more on the academic side. In our county, we have very specific needs, where we do need someone who is crystal clear on policies,” she said.

RECORD REQUESTS

Hunt is upset that she has been the subject of two public records requests by a community member and the FlaglerLive news site concerning her conversations with Peacock.

Peacock filed a grievance against the district in December, and the School Board will hear his appeal at its meeting on March 28.

School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin said the district requested Hunt provide her phone to the technology department to ensure all messages are offloaded to comply with the record requests.

Gavin said government entities must treat requests for text messages the same as requests for written documents, “by reviewing each record, determining if some or all are exempted from production and disclosing the unprotected records to the requester.”

But Hunt said she has not turned in her phone and she had been given the option of choosing which texts to submit.

I don't want to get into it, but there are some reasons why I am not comfortable bringing my phone into the district office. — SALLY HUNT

“My only phone is my business phone, and I also use it as my personal phone. And I was advised that for convenience that I could bring in my phone to have it downloaded, but that I am not required to do that, and that I can just produce my documents,” she said. “I don't want to get into it, but there are some reasons why I am not comfortable bringing my phone into the district office.”

Gavin did not immediately respond to a text from the Observer asking if Hunt was given a timeline for when she had to submit her phone.

FEBRUARY MEETING

Hunt is the board’s liaison to Wadsworth Elementary School. She said Peacock, the district’s former operations chief, has provided her with tremendous background on the district.

“He’s been there supporting me as I’ve had questions as a new board member,” she said.

Hunt said she met with Sims at Wadsworth in February and asked him about his interest in the district’s superintendent position should it be open.

“He was a really successful administrator here in Flagler County for many years,” Hunt said. “And now with this new state-level experience, in the short period of time I spent with Dusty, I just really appreciated who he was and the professional that he is. And so, I was thinking about the superintendent role, not knowing which way the vote was going to go. And at that time, we didn't even know for sure if Superintendent Mittelstadt was going to continue the contract. And so … I did ask Dusty if he'd be willing to talk with me a little bit more about that role.”

Sims said in his role with the DOE’s Bureau of School Improvement, he regularly meets with school board members.

“When a school board member contacts me, it’s part of my job to meet with them,” he said.

Sims said they had conversations regarding Flagler County’s data, and through those conversations, Hunt asked Sims if he was interested in the position.

When asked if he was interested in becoming a superintendent, Sims told the Observer that was his goal when he became an administrator 14 years ago.

“Maybe that’s changed a little bit,” he said. “But I’m always interested in how I can make the most impact.”

Hunt believes her inquiry has been blown out of proportion.

“The thing that I just I don't really understand,” she said, “is I'm one vote. I'm one vote, and so I think it's being put out there that I had this grand plan of installing Dusty Sims as superintendent. But I am one vote. I cannot do anything on my own.”

 

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