Bunnell Elementary School Principal Donnelle Evensen has resigned just before the Flagler County School District completed its investigation into an assembly at the school for African American students.
Evensen emailed her letter of resignation on the night of Wednesday, Sept. 6, to Flagler Schools Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore and the district's five School Board members.
Anthony Hines, the school's fifth-grade facilitator, who coordinated the assembly, resigned on Sept. 7.
The district announced on Monday, Sept. 11, that the investigation into the assembly was closed on Sept. 7. According to state statute, the results won't be made public until 10 days after it was placed in an employee's personnel file.
Moore informed Bunnell Elementary parents on the morning of Sept. 7 that former BES Principal Marcus Sanfilippo would take over as principal again in the interim "as we determine next steps."
On July 28, Sanfilippo transferred to the district office as coordinator of special projects, and Evensen was promoted to principal.
Evensen was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 24 following her approval of the Aug. 18 assembly that included only fourth and fifth grade African American students. The assembly was designed to urge the Black students to improve their state assessment scores. Hines was also placed on leave.
Hines, who is Black, presented a PowerPoint that included a bracketed competition on assessment scores with meals from McDonald's and Chick-fil-A as prizes. Parents said the students were told that if they were not responsible in school they would be in danger later in life of getting shot and killed or going to jail.
I am broken hearted over the way in which the current events have affected the district and the communities view of my abilities and reputation. I have not deserved the time of leave that I have been placed on and I certainly do not deserve anything less than the position I currently have as Principal of Bunnell Elementary.
— DONELLE EVENSEN, from her resignation letter
In a short resignation letter, Hines wrote: “Please consider this my letter of resignation effective today and dated September 7, 2023. I appreciate the opportunity to work in Flagler County Schools.”
Evensen has been a teacher and administrator in the district for 18 years. She was an assistant principal at BES for the past four years and was the district's Assistant Principal of the Year last year. She was the district's Teacher of the Year in 2019, when she was a literacy coach at Rymfire Elementary School. Moore was the principal at Rymfire at the time.
In her resignation letter, Evensen said she "loved every minute of teaching, coaching, and leading within the county."
She went on to say: "I am broken hearted over the way in which the current events have affected the district and the communities view of my abilities and reputation. I have not deserved the time of leave that I have been placed on and I certainly do not deserve anything less than the position I currently have as Principal of Bunnell Elementary. I have willingly followed the process for investigation and been as quiet as I can during this process so as to preserve that process, believing that the truth and legacy that I have built would result in restoration of my name and a chance to truly show what BES is capable of under my continued leadership. Since this is not the direction that things are going at this time, I am offering my resignation.
"I can only hope that due to the unfavorable attention from this situation that a light will be shed and the most important conversation will be unavoidable as to the achievement levels of subgroups of students including African American students and Students With Disabilities. The level of achievement is unacceptable and although some are infuriated with the conversation I am hopeful that those same people and more will become instead infuriated with the data and begin working together to change it."
Please know that I have tried my best to make known to district officials the positive manner in which the meeting with African American students took place."
—DONELLE EVENSEN in an email to Bunnell Elementary faculty and staff after submitting her resignation
Evensen sent an email to BES faculty and staff at the same time she sent in her resignation.
"It has come to my attention that the outcome will not be a favorable one at the conclusion of my leave," she wrote. "Please know that I have tried my best to make known to district officials the positive manner in which the meeting with African American students took place and reminded them of all that we have accomplished and the plans for what we would accomplish this school year. .... I feel that I have failed you and all the great plans that we had. I can not tell you how much you mean to me and how much my journey with you these past four years means to me."
Moore informed BES parents of Evensen's resignation and Sanfilippo's return in an email on Thursday morning.
"I know that this has been a rocky start to the year but we as a school and organization are committed to restoring the rest of this year. There are many great things that are happening at BES and we will continue to do even more great things," Moore wrote.