Public Official Brief
Retention of Superintendent Beamon
Replacement of Superintendent Beamon
Date: December 3, 2021
The following 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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Who Changed the Job Description for SCPS Superintendent?
- School Board Members Unanimously Agreed Teaching Experience Was a Requirement.
- Chad Farnsworth Was Hired on February 9, 2021.
- Serita Beamon Resigned When Not Elected by the Board.
- Undue Pressure to Rescind the Vote
- Problems with The Motion to Rescind on February 23, 2021
- Beamon Is Unqualified for the Superintendent Position.
- Board Member Pennock Called for Investigation.
- Search Committee Bias
- Parent & Teacher Survey Results
- Member Kraus Violated Title 7 of Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Lack of Fiscal Responsibility & Promotions
- Lack of Communication with the School Board
- Hiring of New School Board Attorney with Minimum Qualifications at Mid Pay Range
- Superintendent Evaluation
- Harming the Premier District’s Reputation
- Removing Superintendent for Cause
- Exhibits Index
- WHO CHANGED THE JOB DESCRIPTION OF THE SCPS SUPERINTENDENT?
The Seminole County Public Schools Superintendent position in the past has required a highly qualified individual with ten years of executive administrative/managerial experience. In addition, an experienced education professional has been the standard to fill this position. Teaching experience has been important not only to the teachers but to community members as well. Serita Beamon has neither. So how did this standard disappear?
A public records request was submitted on 7/6/21 for the previous job description of the superintendent and the dates of when it has ever been altered. Carolyn Bedsole, SCPS, informed us the job description has never been altered. See Exhibit A1, p. 24 (Superintendent Job Description sent via public records request). This document had no approval date although every other SCPS job description has one or more approval dates. After several enquiries, we were notified the job description has an approval date of March 10, 1992. See Exhibit A2, p.25 (Superintendent Job Description Showing Approval Date March 10, 1992). Many questions arise as to why there was no approval date on the job description and then it appeared to be back-dated after our requests. Mark Russi, Human Resources, informed Carolyn Bedsole “they researched all the school board minutes to find the approval date but the job description form was not updated at that time.”
The first appointed superintendent was Dr. Hagerty in 1992; prior to that, Seminole County had elected its superintendent. Even then elected superintendents had teaching and administrative experience. See Exhibit A3, p. 26 (Orlando Sentinel Article on Elected Superintendent Robert Hughes 1980-1992 and SCPS Website Milwee History/Milwee Middle School 1952).
When the school board was searching for a replacement for Dr. Vogel, education experience was a requirement. See Exhibit A4, p. 27 (Orlando Sentinel Article).
Although educational experience was a requirement in the past, it is inexplicable that this cannot be documented today. It is evident that standard procedures were not followed regarding this job description posting.
The applications/resumes of the prior superintendents (Dr. Griffin, Dr. Vogel, Dr. Hagerty) demonstrate the caliber of candidates that were chosen to lead Seminole County Public Schools from July 1992 through June 2021. See Exhibit A5, p. 28 (Resumes/Applications of Dr. Griffin, Dr. Vogel and Dr. Hagerty). Upon review of the resumes of Drs. Griffin, Vogel and Hagerty, it is evident that the superintendent position was held by outstanding educators who achieved an extensive list of accomplishments in the field of education.
All superintendents selected by the board since it became an appointed position had teaching and school administrative experience as well as executive managerial experience. Now is not the time to lower our standards and turn leadership over to an inexperienced non-educator.
The search for Dr. Griffin was much more open to the community and much more transparent. See Exhibit A6, P. 52 (Superintendent Search Article). Board member Abby Sanchez stated in the board meeting on March 1, 2021 that town halls were held during the search for Dr. Griffin.
The standard has been set over the past seventy years to have our 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
In a work session at the beginning of the search process (September, 2020) all five board members agreed that teaching experience was a necessary requirement for the new superintendent. Somehow, this unanimous board deviated from that original agreement in the hiring of Ms. Beamon.
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. See Exhibit B1, P. 53 (Superintendent One Page Advertisement).
- CHAD FARNSWORTH WAS HIRED BY THE BOARD ON FEBRUARY 9, 2021
With all five board members present, Chad Farnsworth received 3 votes and Serita Beamon received 2 votes on 2/9/21. See Exhibit C1, P. 55 (Voting Record in Board Minutes 2/9/21)
On that date, 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. See Exhibit C2, P. 56 – Farnsworth Resumé and Application with Action Plan.
Over the next 2 weeks the following actions were taken to introduce Chad Farnsworth to SCPS and the public as the new superintendent:
- A press release was submitted and published in various publications: See Exhibit C3, P. 70.
- At the Principals Meeting in February, Chad Farnsworth was introduced to the principals of SCPS and welcomed.
- Walt Griffin introduced Chad Farnsworth as the new superintendent to employees at the Educational Support Center.
- The SCPS newsletter emailed to parents announced Chad Farnsworth as the newly selected superintendent – See Exhibit C4, P. 70.
- A Facebook post on the SCPS page also announced his election at the board meeting on February 9th – See Exhibit C5, P. 72.
In addition, Farnsworth submitted his resignation to Lake County Schools as their Assistant Superintendent. (Fortunately, notwithstanding the embarrassment to Farnsworth as well as our community at large, Lake County Schools subsequently and gladly reinstated Mr. Farnsworth to his previous position.)
D. SERITA BEAMON RESIGNED AS SCHOOL BOARD ATTORNEY WHEN NOT ELECTED BY THE BOARD
Serita Beamon submitted a resignation letter from her position as school board attorney on February 16, 2021, effective “63 days” later. See Exhibit D1, P. 73 (Resignation Letter). This action 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.
The board then voted to hire Beamon as a consultant to bridge the gap, because she had resigned her position, at an additional cost to our school system of almost $20,000. See Exhibit D2, P. 75 (Temporary Employment Agreement). This caused an unbudgeted and totally unnecessary expense to SCPS just to cover an unexpected absence, created by Ms. Beamon’s unprofessional response.
In addition to Ms. Beamon’s resignation, there was the appearance of coordination in the form of numerous threats of resignations by other employees related to Ms. Beamon. See Exhibit D3, P. 76 (Inappropriate picture with Marian Cummings, Jania Fuller and others wearing Serita shirts). This photo suggests a calculated pressure strategy utilizing inappropriate racial tactics, creating division and suggesting poor judgment and the willingness to use unfair and/or unethical tactics.
- UNDUE PRESSURE TO RESCIND THE VOTE
February 12, 2021 Dr. Griffin had a face-to-face meeting with Velma Williams (See Exhibit E1, P. 77).
February 13, 2021 Dr. Griffin called Amy Lockhart, Seminole County Commissioner and chair of Superintendent Search Committee and halted the introduction video for a county event.
February 12-19, 2021 Dr. Griffin called board member Abby Sanchez and pressured her to the point of tears.
Dr. Griffin told board member Amy Pennock there were going to be some changes on the agenda.
February 15,2021 Dr. Griffin told board clerk Jill Mahramus to be prepared for a change of schedule.
February 19, 2021, Dr. Griffin met with Barbara Kirby Bentley (See Exhibit E2, P. 78).
Griffin acted as a conduit (a violation of Sunshine Law) between board members coordinating rescission of the vote to hire Chad Farnsworth as superintendent.
Dr. Griffin had introduced Serita Beamon as his favorite for superintendent.
For details of the above timeline and undue pressure, see Exhibit E3, P 81.
The above timeline shows a coordinated effort to rescind the hiring of a qualified candidate and pressure board members to vote for an unqualified candidate instead. Community members who were close allies of Beamon pressured Dr. Griffin who, in turn, put pressure on two board members. The timeline also shows violation of Sunshine Law.
F. PROBLEMS WITH THE MOTION TO RESCIND ON FEBRUARY 23, 2021
Chad Farnsworth was sitting in the front row, expecting to be introduced as the new SCPS superintendent at the board meeting on February 23, 2021. However, what happened next was not only an embarrassment for Seminole County but a travesty of justice and excellence in education. When board member Calderone started to read from a prepared statement, many of those in attendance were shocked. See Exhibit F1, P. 83 (Tina Calderone’s Prepared Statement). However, there were several in attendance who also came with prepared comments to speak to the matter of rescinding the vote. Unlike the other attendees, these people clearly knew ahead of time that this motion was going to take place. It is unclear how they knew the Farnsworth rescission would take place, since a new superintendent had already been selected by the board 2 weeks earlier. See Exhibit F2, P. 85 (Public Comment Speakers List).
Chair Almond opened the floor for member Calderone to begin her statement. See the minutes below:
“Chairman Almond stated that in lieu of the fact that there are many public speakers present at the School Board meeting she wanted to open the floor for School Board comments prior to public comment. Member Calderone commented on the vote for our next Superintendent that took place at the February 9, 2021 School Board meeting. Member Calderone suggested the Board consider rescinding the prior vote for our next Superintendent for the purpose of the Board entering into more discussion. Member Calderone asked Associate School Board attorney Gregg Johnson if rescinding their vote was possible and if so, what steps should be taken. Mr. Johnson said rescinding their vote was possible and a motion and a second would need to be made in order to vote to rescind their last vote. Member Calderone moved to rescind their vote from the last meeting on our Superintendent, seconded by Member Kraus.”
Meanwhile, Chad Farnsworth showed extreme self-control, grace and tolerance while this travesty occurred. He sat through the entire charade and at the end of the meeting, to ensure his safety, was escorted out by a police officer. Members Kraus and Almond inappropriately made the hiring of our superintendent about race and equity instead of merit, experience, and qualifications, as it should have been.
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. See Exhibit F3, P. 85 (SCPS Policy Violation).
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, some motions cannot be rescinded. See Exhibit F4, P. 85 (Robert’s Rule Regarding Rescinding a Vote).” Rescinding an election requires either a provision in the bylaws or specific procedures for removal from office.” Robert’s Rules of Order requires SCPS have a policy or bylaw to rescind a hiring. We cannot find any such bylaw or policy or procedure regarding rescinding a hiring. Because SCPS took the above public actions to finalize the hiring of Chad Farnsworth, a motion to rescind was not legal to reverse the board’s previous actions. Not only was notice of the subject matter not given, but one of the School Board members was told the morning of the meeting that there would be some changes on the agenda but was not told what they were.
G. BEAMON IS UNQUALIFIED FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT POSITION
In the brochure advertising the superintendent position (Exhibit G1, P. 87 – Brochure Advertising Superintendent Position), eight key leadership qualities are described. However, Ms. Beamon is extremely deficient in at least three of the eight qualities outlined – displays strong commitment to a “student first” policy; promotes sound fiscal practices and management; and possesses proven ability to enhance student performance especially in identifying and closing or narrowing the gaps in student achievement. See Exhibit G2, P. 89 (From Brochure Advertising Superintendent Position: Leadership Qualities Required).
The district’s advertisement for the superintendent position includes the requirements that an applicant have “a minimum of ten years of executive administrative and supervisory experience in a school district with at least 25,000 students or in a comparatively-sized government/business organization.” Beamon lacks the necessary management and executive experience that is required for the Superintendent position. In fact, she has no management or executive experience. Her previous job was school board attorney, which, although it familiarizes a candidate with procedure, is no substitute for management and executive experience.
The Superintendent is the chief executive officer of the school district. See Florida Statutes § 1001.51, Exhibit G3, P. 89. Ms. Beamon lacks applicable experience in most areas required by Florida Law and her employment contract (Exhibit G8, P 121. ). See Exhibit G4, P. 90 (Beamon’s Resume with Action Plan).
Tina Calderone stated in a school board meeting in February 2021 that she went to Mark Russi, Director of Employee and Governmental Relations/Personnel (now promoted by Beamon to Asst. Superintendent of HR and Professional Standards) to inquire if Serita Beamon met the requirements for Superintendent. Russi inexplicably answered that both candidates met the requirements, although they did not.
At the board meeting on March 1, 2021, board member Calderone described Beamon as one “who has not been a leader but has been a team member.”
The Edgar County Watchdogs outlined Beamon’s lack of qualifications in an article posted on their national website. See Exhibit G5, P. 114.
The Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) manages approximately 10,000 employees and an annual billion-dollar budget. See Exhibit G6, P. 118 (SCPS 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. See Exhibits A2, P. 25 (Job Description for Superintendent) and G7, P. 119 (Job Description for Executive Director of Legal Services). The job description for Beamon’s position in Legal Services states, “Review and monitor the annual budget for the Office of Legal Services with regular communication with all necessary district staff regarding any associated budget shortfalls.” Note that it does not say manage, just review and monitor and communicate.
Beamon’s management style has been known to be too micromanaging and employees have a fear of retribution if they speak up.
Beamon waited until the final deadline to submit her application for superintendent, suggesting that she knew she was unqualified.
Further evidence of Ms. Beamon’s lack of qualifications for Superintendent lies in the two action plans submitted by Ms. Beamon and Mr. Farnsworth.
Ms. Beamon’s Plan is titled, “100 Day Plan – Listen-Learn-Lead” (Exhibit G4, P. 90).
Ms. Beamon’s plan lists 31 specific items for her to do in her first 100 days. Only 2 items accomplish anything more than having Ms. Beamon listen, meet, attend, send letters of introduction or host a meeting. The two proactive items are: Item 18 – “Plan and schedule a series of facilitated equity workshops with district and school leadership, to be followed by school personnel, to increase the cultural competencies of all staff.” and Item 20 – “Collaborate with the Executive Director for Instructional Excellence & Equity to create curriculum workgroups composed of teachers and administrators to determine specific areas of actionable focus to address learning gaps exacerbated by the global pandemic.”
By contrast, Mr. Farnsworth’s Action Plan titled, “Leading Seminole: Superintendent’s Action Plan” (Exhibit C2, P. 56), is mostly proactive items.
Under Listen and Learn he identified 3 items- Walk schools, Conduct teacher focus groups, and Meet with district and school leadership teams to evaluate progress toward the current strategic plan and school improvement goals.
Under Academics he has 3 identified – Examine successful programs and identify enhancement opportunities, Review specific intervention plans by subgroup, Provide additional interventions or make adjustments where necessary based on recent data and input from instructional leaders. He goes on to list 30 more action items. Among them are actions like – Set mechanisms to monitor progress, identify applicable remediation strategies, create feedback loops, establish methods of measuring success and shortcomings among other things. These are all tools that administrators use in their jobs and indicate Mr. Farnsworth has applicable managerial experience and skills.
On the other hand, the only area that Ms. Beamon seems to know is Equity. At a $190,000 annual salary, SCPS cannot afford for Ms. Beamon to learn on the job, and hire multiple Assistant Superintendents to do her job for her because she cannot.
The advertised Contract Terms were: “The Board is prepared to offer, at minimum, a three-year contract with a salary range of $165,000 – 195,000 plus competitive benefits.” Although Beamon did not meet the required qualifications, Mark Russi, then Director of Employee and Governmental Relations/Personnel Services (promoted by Beamon to Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources and Professional Standards) and Boyd Karns, Executive Director of Human Resources and Professional Standards negotiated with her a starting salary of $190,000. This was not in the best interest of the taxpayers. Beamon started near the top of the salary range without meeting minimum required qualifications. See Exhibit G8, P. 121 (Employment Contract)
Finally, Serita Beamon was so lacking in the necessary experience and educational qualifications that she even had to be “coached” by Dr. Anna Marie Cote (who spoke in her favor during public comments at the board meeting on February 23, 2021) to prepare her for the interview questions.
Significantly, Beamon lacks experience in leading and building consensus across a diverse array of constituents and stakeholders.
H. 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.” See Exhibit H1, P. 132 (Board Member Pennock Statement).
See Seminole County School Board Meeting Minutes from March 23, 2021, below:
“Chairman Almond read her recommendation to approve the superintendent (Beamon) contract. Then member Kraus moved to approve Chairman’s motion seconded by Member Calderone.
During School Board discussion Member Kraus made a point of order Vice-Chair Pennock moved to follow our policy 8141-Mandatory Reporting of Misconduct and request a full review of the entire process be made by outside counsel to determine if there was or was not wrong-doing or Sunshine violations on any part of this organization including herself. as the main motion was still pending. Associate Attorney Gregg Johnson confirmed Member Kraus’ point of order and explained that the new motion is not incidental to the main motion so the main motion needs to be considered first. Vice-Chairman Pennock then moved to put a hold on the agreement until we can provide clarity of the process of this superintendent search to make sure that when we do hire and enter into contract that it is done in the best interest of all parties including the incoming Superintendent. Member Kraus made a point of order as the main motion was still on the floor for discussion. Mr. Johnson asked for clarification on Vice-Chair Pennock’s motion as asking to table or asking for an indefinite postponement of the main motion. Vice-Chair Pennock made a secondary motion to table the main motion. The secondary motion did not receive a second so it failed. The Chairman opened the floor again for discussion on the main motion. After the School Board discussion, the Chairman asked the School Board Clerk for a roll call vote on the main motion. Member Sanchez voted yes, Member Kraus voted yes, Vice-Chair Pennock voted no, Member Calderone voted yes, and Chairman Almond voted yes. The main motion passed with a 4-1 vote.”
Ms. Pennock received no second for her motion, as the other four members sat in complete silence.
Ms. Pennock also was the subject of a chain of harassing emails sent from the teacher’s union president to the superintendent and his cabinet members. See Exhibit H2, P. 134 (Chain of Emails).
- SEARCH COMMITTEE BIAS
Griffin appointed Velma Williams and Marian Cummings, who openly supported Serita Beamon, to serve on the Search Committee. See Exhibit I1, P. 140 (Search Committee Members). These two members were involved in nominating Serita Beamon to advance as a finalist even though she did not receive as many tallies from members as many other applicants. See Exhibit I2, P. 141 (Tally Sheet). Marian Cummings nominated Serita Beamon as a third-round pick and Velma Williams seconded the nomination.
Amy Lockhart, chair of the search committee, gave an organized recap of the committee’s actions in her public comment speech at the board meeting on March 1, 2021. Ms. Lockhart stated, “It was for this board to determine the qualities that were most important in your next leader.” and “November 19th was our next meeting and there was a robust discussion of all the candidates. A motion was made and unanimously passed to move candidates 7 11 14 18 20 23 and 27 on to the next steps. It should be noted that Mr. Farnsworth was candidate #18 and was included in this first-round motion and there was more committee discussion and there was a unanimous motion to add candidates 22 and 26. Again we had additional robust discussion … a third motion was made and unanimously passed to add candidate 24. And you should note candidate 24 was Mrs. Beamon… At our Dec 3rd meeting… some committee members expressed that they had spoken with Dr. Griffin. They were impressed by his advocacy for Mrs. Beamon…Mrs. Beamon was the only candidate to enjoy the advocacy of the current superintendent…”
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 as a finalist even though she lacked any educational experience or required executive managerial experience.
J. PARENT AND TEACHER SURVEY RESULTS
The board completely ignored parent desires when hiring Ms. Beamon. The top priority for parents and teachers was to hire a superintendent with classroom and school administrative experience. See Exhibit J1, P. 142 (Survey Results).
When each school board member was campaigning, they promised to listen to their constituents, as they should. Three of the board members refused to listen to their constituents with regard to what was arguably their most important and effective vote.
K. 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.
What is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? The seventh amendment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, called Title VII, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. In the late 1970s, Congress amended the Act by passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which clarified pregnancy discrimination as unlawful sex discrimination.
At the board meeting on February 9th, (@ minute 36), Kraus said “equity has to be forefront in our decision”.
On March 1st, (around minute 4) – Kraus attacked Farnsworth in her comment time and then (@4:33:11, she explained the basis for her support of Serita Beamon — only Ms. Beamon’s race.
“WHEN THEY SAY WALK THE TALK, THAT’S WHAT THEY MEAN. THEY MEAN PUT SOMEONE INTO THE POSITION WHO LOOKS LIKE THEM. SO LITTLE GIRLS AND LITTLE BOYS SEE THEMSELVES GROWING UP… IN POSITIONS OF POWER, IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY…”
At the board meeting on March 1, 2021 Kristine Kraus stated, “Perhaps, we the board made a mistake going out for a candidate when we had our candidate here. Maybe we did make a mistake”
“A White hospital executive says he was fired and replaced by 2 women as part of a diversity push. He sued and was just awarded $10 million” – CNN See Exhibit K1, P. 144
We submit that the same thing happened with the rescission (firing) of Mr. Farnsworth in order to hire an unqualified Black woman for superintendent based on race and gender.
L. LACK OF FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & PROMOTIONS
Beamon’s performance has already materially harmed the district. Despite being given a top-end contract for $190,000 starting pay, enrollment is now down 5,000 students. This demonstrates both Ms. Beamon’s ineptness and a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of the board members. See Exhibit L1, P. 147 (Florida Statute 1001.50(3)).
Beamon promoted Marian Cummings to Assistant Superintendent – Student and School Success. She created this new position using ESSR (covid-related) funds. See Exhibit L2, P. 148 (Job Description). Since the ESSR funds are not any permanent part of the budget, this position is unfunded, demonstrating Ms. Beamon’s lack of ability to properly manage a budget.
On June 22, 2021, Ms. Beamon initiated promotions of nine Executive Directors to Assistant Superintendents. The prior superintendent needed only one Deputy Superintendent and no Assistant Superintendents — with more students attending schools in the district. The pay range for assistant superintendent is higher than for executive director. These promotions gave the executive directors the potential for higher pay increases as assistant superintendents. These new assistant superintendents all have educational certification while the superintendent does not — making them more qualified than their supervisor. See Exhibit L3, P. 149 (Job Description for Executive Director Secondary with Pay Range) and Exhibit L4, P. 151 (Job Description for Assistant Superintendent Secondary with Pay Range)
When Ms. Beamon became superintendent amid pandemic concerns and controversy, one of her first items of business was to have her office refurbished – new carpet, paint and furniture.
M. LACK OF COMMUNICATION WITH THE SCHOOL BOARD
Board members had voted for masks to be optional to start the current school year. On August 7th, Beamon instituted a no visitor procedure and mask mandate with parental opt out (with a letter) for 30 days beginning August 10th. The board did not approve this. On October 9th, she extended the no visitor procedure and mask mandate with opt out for students without regard to decline in covid cases (54). The board did not approve this extension and there was no discussion.
The board requested the Chair and Superintendent to bring a recommendation to the board regarding recording work sessions in addition to board meetings. This had been requested by the public for those who cannot attend at 1pm or 2pm in the afternoon. Instead of bringing it to a public meeting for the board to discuss, Ms. Beamon has been calling the board members individually to avoid public discussion, in violation of Sunshine laws.
No Superintendent Report at Board Meeting on October 26, 2021
On October 26, 2021, Chairman Almond asked the Superintendent if she had a Superintendent’s report. Superintendent Beamon unacceptably stated she had NO report.
By comparison, the Superintendent’s report during Walt Griffins’ first year as Superintendent was as follows:
XI. Superintendent’s Report
A. Student Participation in Constitution Day and Celebrate Freedom Week
B. STEM Update
C. School Advisory Council New Member Training
D. School Recognition Program A+ Process Review
E. Seminole County Virtual School Update
F. Hispanic Heritage Month 2012
G. Excellence and Equity Report
H. Rezoning Update
I. Staffing Update
N. HIRING OF NEW SCHOOL BOARD ATTORNEY WITH MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS AT MID-PAY RANGE
Karlene Cole-Palmer was hired to become the Executive Director of Legal Services. With no experience at all in the field of education, she has been given a salary in the middle of pay range rather than lower in the range, matching her educational inexperience. This is a 45% increase for her from her previous position at Embrace Families. Her contract was approved on June 22, 2021. Agenda item VI G. She supervises two paralegals and two attorneys.
O. SUPERINTENDENT EVALUATION
For a new, inexperienced superintendent with no managerial or executive or educational leadership to receive almost all 4’s from Almond and Kraus, suggests their expectations were extremely low. See Exhibit O1, P. 153 (Evaluation).
As of this date, there has been no confirmation that Ms. Beamon has completed any superintendent or educational leadership classes.
P. HARM TO THE DISTRICT’S PREMIER REPUTATION
The SCPS website proudly describes its position as a leading school district that enjoys a stellar reputation:
“As a School Board, we are extremely proud that Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) remains a leader in education, throughout the state and Central Florida, and is an economic driver for both our county and region. With more than 67,000 students and 10,000 employees, we rank as the 12th largest school district in Florida and the 60th nationally. We’re ecstatic about the progress we’ve made overall as a district and look forward to the new heights we’ll reach in the years to come. SCPS has been rated by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) as an “A”-rated district from 1999 through 2015 and is considered by many to be a Premier National School District. This wouldn’t be possible without the strong community involvement, collaboration, and support we receive throughout the region and within the county for which we serve. Our goal as your School Board is to provide the best education possible for all of our students and to ensure that they graduate future-ready and prepared for success!”
This reputation and high standing have 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.
In an article in the Orlando Sentinel on January 20, 2021, “Calderone questioned whether Seminole’s search for Griffin’s replacement had attracted “every quality candidate in the nation,” and board member Amy Pennock also raised that issue. Articles on March 2 and March 18, 2021 highlighted the controversy in which Seminole County later found itself entangled. See Exhibit P1, P. 155 (Seminole School Board Reverses Course) and Exhibit P2, P. 158 (Botched Superintendent Search Leaves a Stain on Seminole’s Outstanding School System/Editorial).
Jeff Siskind, former president of the Seminole teachers’ union, suggested the board re-advertise for a new superintendent, noting all the candidates were from Florida, with largely similar experiences and education. He reminded the board that in 1992, board members did a national search and ended up hiring Paul Hagerty from Springfield, Missouri. “They thought other perspectives might be useful,” Siskind said in written comments read aloud at the meeting.”
The citizens of Seminole County, including parents, teachers and employees, have lost confidence in Serita Beamon as a qualified superintendent. Additional desired outcomes are twofold:
1. Investigation by State Ethics Commission
2. Prosecution by SA of Sunshine law/conduit violations of Walt Griffin
Q. REMOVAL OF SUPERINTENDENT BEAMON FOR CAUSE
SCPS board members can cure the wrong they have inflicted on Seminole County by voting to terminate Beamon for cause (Exhibit Q1, P. 161) 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.
Serita Beamon misrepresented qualifications on her application, a violation of Rule 6A-10.081, Florida Administrative Code, Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida. See Exhibit Q2, P. 161 (Principles of Professional Conduct). She stated “I am a focused education professional with 16 years of relevant experience working with the school board superintendent and district staff of Seminole County Public Schools and have been recognized as a knowledgeable leader with excellent communication and critical thinking skills who provides decisive guidance regarding all aspects of the district’s operational functions.” Ms. Beamon is not an education professional; she is an attorney representing SCPS. Her 16 years of “relevant” experience is not relevant. It encompassed no executive administrative/managerial experience as an educator. She was an attorney in charge of five employees.
Ms. Beamon states a fraudulent fact material to her qualifications on her application. Florida Rule 4-7.14 POTENTIALLY MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS states: A lawyer may not engage in potentially misleading advertising. Potentially misleading advertisements include but are not limited to: (1) advertisements that are subject to varying reasonable interpretations, one or more of which would be materially misleading when considered in the relevant context; (2) advertisements that are literally accurate, but could reasonably mislead a prospective client regarding a material fact.
Miss Beamon makes the following misleading statement on her application under the section titled “Education and Certification/Licensure – Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist – Education Law – One of 52 attorneys recognized by the Florida Bar as an expert in Education Law.”
The Florida Bar did not recognize her as an expert in Education law. They did recognize that Ms. Beamon is Board Certified in Education Law. By claiming the Florida Bar recognized her as an expert it appears to misrepresent the plain language from the Bar. While her application may be literally accurate as it relates to being board certified, claiming the Bar recognizes her as an expert could reasonably mislead the School Board and those on the search committee. The way it is written appears to use the Florida Bar as an endorsement.
While Ms. Beamon was an attorney for SCPS, she advocated for the district’s interests against parents who were fighting for their ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students. See Exhibit Q2, P. 161 (Principles of Professional Conduct). One parent’s statement is attached in Exhibit Q3, P. 165 (Parent Speech at Board Meeting). As the parent stated “No board should ever be hiring its own lawyer to be superintendent because the school board lawyer has conflicts of interest that can never be overcome… I find it terrifying that this board hired the lawyer who threatened me while my child was being abused in an SCPS school in order to try to silence me and prevent me from filing my legitimate complaints.” The conduct of Ms. Beamon, while she was the SCPS attorney, goes against the educator’s professional code of ethics. .
Research done by Edgar County Watchdogs (Exhibit G5) was posted on their national website with their recommendations to the Seminole County Board Members. Below are relevant excerpts from the article:
“The requirements for the next superintendent listed two key items. Master’s Degree required; earned doctorate degree from an accredited college or university is preferred.
Ten years of successful administration/managerial experience required.
The person now hired, Serita Beamon, does not have a Master’s Degree according to her candidate application. While she does have a Juris Doctorate, that is not the same as a Masters or Doctorate Degree. Nor does her application appear to disclose ten years of administration/managerial experience, successful or otherwise.”
“So there is no confusion, the Florida Bar does not “rate” the Board-Certified attorneys in Florida. So, for Mr. Richardson (search committee member) to claim he believes she was top 56 in the state raises the question as to why he believes something that is clearly not true. Where would he draw the opinion Ms. Beamon is recognized by the Florida Bar as one of the top leading experts? Was it from her application which appears to misrepresent the truth of the matter?”
“Beamon…was the legal counsel for the board and has said nothing to our knowledge about the violation of policy by the board she is supposed to be representing, nor has she been willing to correct false statements made by members of the search committee regarding her alleged recognition by the Florida Bar.”
Ms. Beamon does not have the required 10 years of managerial/administrative experience (staff counsel for 9 years from 2004-2015 with no management experience and school board attorney/Executive Director of Legal Services for 6 years from 2015-2021). In summary, Ms. Beamon possesses a lack of qualifications and experience – she has never managed 10,000 employees, she has no teaching or school administrative experience, no educational leadership certification or coursework toward superintendent certification.