The Flagler County School Board agreed to stretch out the timeline on hiring on a new superintendent. the board is also moving toward a decision that may change the makeup of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club.
At its May 2 agenda workshop, the board discussed again whether to continue operating the club as a hybrid school and public facility or to do away with memberships, close the club’s gym and keep the pool open as a student-focused facility. The board is slated to vote on the issue at its May 16 business meeting.
Board members agreed to extending the timeline to Jan. 1, 2024 for hiring a new superintendent. Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt’s contract will run out on June 30. In a 3-2 vote on April 4, the board chose not to renew her contract.
The board decided on April 18 to sign a contract with the Florida School Board Association to have that organization conduct a national search for a new superintendent. The FSBA is also conducting searches for several other school districts that are replacing their superintendents.
Board member Colleen Conklin suggested giving the FSBA a timeline for Jan. 1, rather than the Oct. 1 date the board discussed on April 18. It would be a more appropriate place for a new superintendent to break with their current district, Conklin said, adding that she would not want to hire a superintendent who would leave their district in the middle of a semester.
Christy Chong said she would like to see the board take its time and hire somebody that all the board members can agree on.
Board Attorney Kristy Gavin said extending the timeline will make the FSBA’s job easier with its busy schedule, “because everyone wants that superintendent yesterday.”
The board had agreed at their April 18 workshop to offer Assistant Superintendent LaShakia Moore the position of interim superintendent. Gavin said the board would be creating a contract with her that among other things would protect her job status so she would be able to return to her current position after a new superintendent is hired.
Conklin said Moore has indicated that she would be able to redistribute her current responsibilities among her team while she fills in as superintendent.
Gavin distributed the district’s superintendent job description to the board members. She said the board could discuss any changes during its information workshop on May 16 and then vote on them during the business meeting that night.
One change Conklin said she would like to see is extending the superintendent’s contract from three years to four or five. That would break the three-year cycle which has caused so much turnover. Mittelstadt, who was hired in 2020, is the district’s fifth superintendent since 2010.
The problem, Conklin said, is new board members come in with the superintendents having just one year left on their contract. The board’s three new members — Chong, Sally Hunt and Will Furry — all looking for new leadership, voted to replace Mittelstadt.
The agreement with the FSBA will be presented to board members at the May 16 workshop, and they would be able to approve it that night, Gavin said.
The public now sees me as a swing vote. I find that pretty annoying. I appreciate the public comment. This is your community, don’t get me wrong.” — SALLY HUNT
The board will also vote on the future of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club during that meeting. The decision will likely be by a 3-2 vote with two board members entrenched on each side. Furry and Chong would like to see the district end memberships, close the gym and keep the pool open for school swim teams, other organized groups that currently use the facility and any new groups that want to rent it out and hire lifeguards.
That scenario would cost the district an estimated $81,425 a year, according to district staff. Conklin and Board Chair Cheryl Massaro would like to keep the current model with public memberships for pool, gym and tennis use. Under that model, with the staffing it would require, the district estimates a loss between $163,500 and $177,803. But Conklin and Massaro said the loss would be much less if the district were to advertise for new members.
During public comment, several club members lobbied the board to continue to allow individual memberships to use the club’s facilities. One person mentioned board member Hunt by name, which is against board policy, appealing to her as the board’s swing vote.
Hunt objected, noting the rule that the board can only be addressed as a group.
“The public now sees me as a swing vote. I find that pretty annoying,” she said, adding, “I appreciate the public comment. This is your community, don’t get me wrong.”
Massaro then told the speakers to refrain from addressing specific board members.