Report: Few teachers or administrators had knowledge of African American assemblies

Presenter said comments about jail and being shot and killed were 'heartfelt' and in the moment.

Screen shot of Anthony Hines' witness statement included in the investigation report.
Screen shot of Anthony Hines' witness statement included in the investigation report.
  • Palm Coast Observer
  • Schools
  • Share

According to the final report on Flagler Schools’ investigation into the segregated assemblies at Bunnell Elementary School, few teachers or administrators had any knowledge of the content of the assemblies and no one reported any misgivings.

The district released the investigative summary filed by Michael Rinaldi, Flagler Schools’ coordinator of professional standards, on Sept. 18. Rinaldi investigated teacher Anthony Hines, who initiated and presented the assemblies, and Bunnell Elementary Principal Donelle Evensen, who approved them.

Both Hines and Evensen resigned shortly before Rinaldi’s investigation was closed on Sept. 7. They had both been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

Superintendent LaShakia Moore released a statement along with the investigation trascript.

“The final reports from our Office of Professional Standards have now been made available to the public,” she said. “My message is the same as I’ve told the parents of Bunnell Elementary School: this was unacceptable. We will do better, and that begins with transparency and training for all our staff, administrators, and educators. This incident was not indicative of Flagler Schools, and we have much to do to regain the trust of many in our community. This process starts on September 27th, when we host a Community Connection forum at the Carver Center, starting at 6:00 p.m. I look forward to an open line of communication among our entire Flagler County community."

The report itself did not include a conclusion or any punishments. A legal basis for the investigation included violations of School Board policies regarding professional ethics and unlawful discrimination and six Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession pertaining to the protection of students’ well-being.

The assemblies were held on Aug. 18 for African American fourth and fifth graders as an introduction to an expanded mentoring program that Hines, the school’s fifth grade ESE support facilitation teacher, had started in the 2022-23 school year.

Hines had suggested to then BSE Principal Marcus Sanfilippo on May 23 to expand the program. The assemblies included a slideshow presentation that showed that the schools’ African American subgroup had underperformed on the state’s assessments tests over the past three years. A bracketed competition with fast-food meals as awards was to incentivize the students to do better.  

Evensen, the school’s assistant principal who was promoted on July 28 when Sanfilippo was transferred to the district office, approved the assemblies and the slideshow presentation.

Hines told Rinaldi that all the African American students in the two grades were included in the assemblies because the higher performing stuents would be a good example and would help lead the competition when the students were put in “tournament brackets.”

Hines said “no one in administration said don’t invite them all.”

The one administrator, other than Evensen and Sanfilippo, who was questioned in the investigation said she had no knowledge of the assemblies until the night of Aug. 18 when she read about them on Facebook several hours after they had taken place.

There was no mention in the report as to why parents were not notified about the assemblies. But the absence of parent notification was one of the allegations listed against Evensen and Hines. The report also alleged that the content of the assemblies was inappropriate for both the intended audience and the general school setting.

Rinaldi asked Hines if during his presentation he referenced “going to jail, being shot or going to an early grave.”

“Yes, I did,” Hines responded.

He told Rinaldi that in the moment he was spilling his heart out.

“What was said was, in my experience, the friends and people that I grew up with that made bad choices and didn’t do well in school ended up in jail, shot or are not with us anymore.”
ANTHONY HINES in interview with school district investigator

“What was said was, in my experience, the friends and people that I grew up with that made bad choices and didn’t do well in school ended up in jail, shot or are not with us anymore.”

Teachers Tyonna Steed and Gary Gabriel were also present for the assemblies and were to be included in the expanded program. They said they did not know about the assemblies until Evensen sent out emails on Aug. 15-16. Gabriel said he didn’t hear much of the presentation because he was moving students who were being disruptive or not paying attention to other seats. Steed said Hines spoke about making good choices and the consequences for not doing so.

Those consequences were not included in Hines’ PowerPoint. Evensen said that when she walked into an assembly toward the end, Hines was talking about the planned competition not the consequences of making bad choices.

Hines said his limited mentor program for African American students last year included goal setting with the promise that he would buy pizza at the end of he year if the students reached their goals. He said 65% of the students achieved their goals.

Sanfilippo, who has returned to BES as the principal on an interim basis, said he approved expanding the program but did not approve an assembly on May 23 or Aug. 2 when he had an impromptu meeting with Hines.

Evensen said two assemblies, one for each grade, were arranged so the students would be taken out of special areas and not miss regular class time. 

She said she got the names of the African American students through Skyward, Flagler Schools’ student information system. She emailed a list of students who would be included in the assemblies to fourth and fifth grade students on Aug. 16. The list included 37 fourth graders and 47 fifth graders according to the emails released by the district with the names deleted.

Rinaldi interviewed fourth grade team lead Melissa Anderson who contacted Evensen after the initial email was sent out on Aug. 15 about the assemblies without listing the students' names

She said some of the fourth grade teachers had come to her because they were not comfortable with which students to send because they didn’t have a list. Evensen told her she was getting the most accurate list from Skyward. She sent it the following day.


Latest News


Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning local news.