Divided Alachua County school board votes to fire controversial superintendent

News4Jax | By Travis Gibson | March 2, 2022

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Alachua County School Board on Tuesday night voted 3-2 to fire controversial superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon. Her termination was effective Wednesday.

“I think Dr. Simon is a great speaker, a gifted writer, but things are not working for our school system and it takes more than talk to make it work,” said Robert Hyatt Alachua County School Board Chair.

During her tenure, Simon gained national exposure after she was outspoken about the need for student mask mandates despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order barring mask mandates at schools in Florida. She appeared on The Morning Show and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post defending her stance on masks.

Last August, the Alachua school board voted in favor of requiring students to wear masks for the first two weeks of school despite the order from DeSantis. That sparked a battle with the Florida Department of Education which eventually decided to withhold salaries of board members.

But the complexion of the school board changed since then.

After that vote, DeSantis appointed Mildred Russell to the school board. She was one of the three members who voted to fire Simon without cause on Tuesday night, Main Street Daily News reported.

“I think I knew the minute DeSantis put Mildred in her position, way back in August, that that was her intent,” Simon told News4JAX. “We had had a fairly good working relationship, so I was definitely disappointed that she was willing to just kind of go out and do what we know she was placed there to do.”

DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw celebrated Simon’s firing in a tweet, saying in part: “One of the superintendents who violated DeSantis’ Executive Order and force-masked kids for a couple of months last fall…Insufferable. BYE!!!!”

During her 15-month tenure, the Main Street Daily News reported, Simon also faced criticism over multiple issues including a reorganization plan, changes to a school improvement projects list and whether she had the proper certification for the job.

The discussion about her firing came after three of the five members gave her less than satisfactory evaluation scores during her annual review at last month’s board meeting.

Dozens of residents in Alachua County attended the marathon meeting Tuesday night to speak both in favor of and against Dr. Simon, according to WCJB.

“I am proud of my record and in years to come, I will still be proud of my record,” Simon said during the meeting.

Deputy superintendent Donna Jones will serve as acting superintendent until the next board meeting on March 15.

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