Executive Summary of Public Official Brief

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Topic: Retention of Superintendent Beamon

Recommendation: Replacement of Superintendent Beamon.

Date: December 3, 2021

This brief is a report and analysis of the many reasons justifying the removal of Seminole County School Superintendent Serita Beamon and selection of a new superintendent using a national search consulting firm. The Board originally erred in electing Serita Beamon because it had 1) already hired Chad Farnsworth, an experienced assistant superintendent and superintendent and 2) focused too heavily on race, while neglecting necessary educational leadership experience and managerial experience as well as teacher and parent input.  In short, the hiring of Ms. Beamon has had an unacceptably significant negative impact on both the Seminole County Public School (SCPS) system’s reputation as a premier school district and on Seminole County’s reputation as a premier residential and commercial destination in Central Florida.

WHO CHANGED THE JOB DESCRIPTION OF THE SCPS SUPERINTENDENT?  The standard has been set over the past seventy years to have the school system led by experienced educators with administrative experience.  The necessity for experience in both those areas is self-evident. The current board has deviated from these previous hiring standards and lowered the qualifications to a totally unacceptable level.

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS UNANIMOUSLY AGREED TEACHING EXPERIENCE WAS A REQUIREMENT FOR SUPERINTENDENT  The educational leadership qualifications of past superintendents were instrumental in bringing SCPS into a leading position in the state and in maintaining its stellar reputation.

CHAD FARNSWORTH WAS HIRED BY THE BOARD ON FEBRUARY 9, 2021  Mr. Farnsworth, an educator and administrator with experience as a superintendent of a county with 3,000 students and assistant superintendent of a county with over 40,000 students, became the new superintendent of SCPS.  Over the next 2 weeks, numerous actions were taken to introduce Chad Farnsworth to SCPS and the public as the new superintendent.

SERITA BEAMON RESIGNED AS SCHOOL BOARD ATTORNEY WHEN NOT ELECTED BY THE BOARD  Serita Beamon’s resignation indicated a lack of professionalism and sound judgment.  Beamon’s petulant response is indicative of a lack of ability to deal with disappointment, which occurs often in life and top management positions.  

UNDUE PRESSURE TO RESCIND THE VOTE  Between February 12 and February 23,2021 Walt Griffin 1) met with Velma Williams (a Beamon supporter),  2) halted the introduction video for the county event, 3)  pressured a board member who had voted for Farnsworth to the point of tears, and 4) prepared the board clerk for a possible change in the agenda at the 2/23 board meeting.  Griffin acted as a conduit (a violation of Sunshine Law) between board members coordinating rescission of the vote to hire Chad Farnsworth as superintendent.  As Board Member Tina Calderone stated in the board meeting on 3/1/21, “Dr. Griffin is so well respected… when Dr. Griffin speaks, we listen.”

PROBLEMS WITH THE MOTION TO RESCIND ON FEBRUARY 23, 2021 There was communication outside of Sunshine requirements, and someone was the conduit used to intentionally violate the Sunshine Law.  The rescission motion was not on the agenda. They did not notice the modified agenda publicly beforehand, as required by statute.  According to Robert’s Rules of Order, some motions cannot be rescinded.  Because SCPS took public actions to finalize the hiring of Chad Farnsworth, a motion to rescind was not legal to reverse the board’s previous actions.

BEAMON IS UNQUALIFIED FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT POSITION  The Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) manages approximately 10,000 employees and an annual billion-dollar budget.  The superintendent position is not a job for an attorney like Ms. Beamon who has never managed more than 5 employees or a budget of any substantial size.  Significantly, Beamon lacks experience in leading and building consensus across a diverse array of constituents and stakeholders.  

BOARD MEMBER PENNOCK CALLED FOR AN INVESTIGATION  During the school board meeting on March 23, 2021, one school board member, Amy Pennock, outlined the timeline and her concerns.  She ended by stating, “I would like to make a motion to follow our policy number 8141- Mandatory Reporting of Misconduct and request a full review of this entire process be made, by outside counsel, to determine if there was or was not wrongdoing or Sunshine Violations on the part of any of us, including myself.” 

SEARCH COMMITTEE BIAS  Although the search committee was bound by Sunshine Law, this brief demonstrates compelling circumstantial evidence of undue influence by Dr. Griffin, who appointed the two search committee members (Velma Williams and Marian Cummings) that pushed Ms. Beamon through on round three even though she lacked any educational experience or required executive managerial experience.  

PARENT AND TEACHER SURVEY RESULTS  The board completely ignored parent and desires when hiring Ms. Beamon. The top priority for parents and teachers was to hire a superintendent with classroom and school administrative experience.

MEMBER KRAUS VIOLATED TITLE 7 OF CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964  Board member Kristine Kraus made several statements in violation of employee hiring law and based her vote on race.  

LACK OF FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & PROMOTIONS  Ms. Beamon promoted Marian Cummings to Assistant Superintendent – Student and School Success, a new position created using ESSR (covid-related) funds.  She also initiated promotions of nine Executive Directors to Assistant Superintendents.  And amid pandemic concerns and controversy, one of her first items of business was to have her office refurbished.

LACK OF COMMUNICATION WITH THE SCHOOL BOARD  Ms. Beamon instituted and then extended a no visitor procedure and mask mandate without board discussion.

HIRING OF NEW SCHOOL BOARD ATTORNEY WITH MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS AT MID-PAY RANGE  With no experience at all in the field of education, the new attorney has been given a salary in the middle of the pay range rather than lower in the range, matching her educational inexperience.

SUPERINTENDENT EVALUATION  This new, inexperienced superintendent with no managerial or executive or educational leadership received almost all 4’s from board members Almond and Kraus, suggesting their expectations were extremely low.  

HARM TO THE DISTRICT’S PREMIER REPUTATION  This reputation and high standing has been led by exemplary educational professionals who had earned distinguished awards in their careers.  They knew teaching.  They knew school administration.  They knew budget and personnel issues. They knew pedagogy.   The last risk factor in the audit that was completed recently on SCPS deals with “risk of harming the district’s reputation.”  Hiring a qualified superintendent but then unhiring him to place an attorney in that position — apparently for reasons unrelated to merit, ability, or qualifications — is the epitome of harming the district’s reputation.

REMOVAL OF SUPERINTENDENT BEAMON FOR CAUSE  SCPS board members can cure the wrong they have inflicted on Seminole County by voting to terminate Ms. Beamon for cause and hiring a consulting firm or the Florida School Boards Association to conduct an independent national search for  a superintendent of the caliber of Dr. Hagerty and Dr. Vogel.  Ms. Beamon possesses lack of qualifications and experience  – she has never managed 10,000 employees, she has no teaching or school administrative experience, and no educational leadership certification or coursework toward superintendent certification.