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June 28, 2022

Lone Seminole County School Board Member Gets It – Failures Exposed In Superintendent Selection Process

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On June 29, 2021

Seminole Co., Florida  (ECWd) –

Schools are supposed to be in place for educational purposes.  What did the students learn from the recent events involving the hiring of a new School Superintendent? We pose this question because of one board member’s comments.

“I have reached the conclusion that, as a body, we have failed my kids, and we have failed your kids.” (Amy Pennock – Seminole County School Board Member)

We agree with Ms. Pennock’s statement above and while she does raise numerous other concerns, we are going to focus on the troubling findings in our short time looking into the school’s process of hiring a new Superintendent and explain how those actions tie directly to the above comment from board member Pennock.

School boards adopt policies.  Those policies are supposed to be enforced and followed. When they are not enforced and followed it points to a disregard for the rules, a common problem in today’s society.

The School board adopted Roberts Rules of Order.  The School board violated their policy when they voted to rescind the vote where a candidate for superintendent was hired.  Violated, because Roberts Rules of Order 35:6 (c) forbids rescinding a vote when the person elected was officially notified of the action.  Even if a vote to rescind was allowed, in the situation at Seminole County, it would require a 2/3rds vote to pass, which it did not, yet the school legal counsel said it could be done. (minutes from the meeting)

The messages sent to students and taxpayers in this district?

  • The School Board is not bound by any policy
  • Conflicts of interest don’t matter – The legal counsel for the board provided legal advice, deficient in our opinion, that directly benefited his superior.

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, Sarita 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.

The message sent to students and taxpayers in this district?

  • Criteria for hiring does not matter.

The board policy on employment of the Superintendent has an interesting paragraph worth noting.

“Any candidate’s intentional misstatement of fact material to his/her qualifications for employment or the determination of his/her salary shall be considered by this Board to constitute grounds for his/her dismissal. “

Ms. Beamon states a fact material to her qualifications on her application.

“Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist – Education Law
One of 52 attorneys recognized by the Florida Bar as an expert in Education Law”

Did the Florida Bar recognize her as an expert in Education law?  We say no, they did not.

What they recognize regarding Ms. Beamon is she 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.   “Board-certified attorneys are the only Florida lawyers allowed to identify themselves as Florida Bar Board Certified “specialists” or “experts” or to use “B.C.S.” to indicate Board Certified Specialist.”

We raised this issue directly with Ms. Beamon and she has refused to answer our questions.  Specifically, we asked, “Isn’t it true the Florida Bar only recognizes you as Board Certified, which allows you to identify as an expert”?” 

Prior to publication, we gave her another chance to answer our questions on this matter and last night we received this response, which you will see has nothing to do with the question we raised.

“On Monday, March 1, 2021, the School Board of Seminole County, Inc. voted to select Serita Beamon as the new Superintendent for Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS).  Mrs. Beamon has more than 16-years of experience with SCPS, previously serving as the School Board Attorney/Executive Director of Legal Services and has been a part of SCPS Superintendent Dr. Walt Griffin’s District Leadership Team (Cabinet) for many years.  She officially becomes the 11th Superintendent for the district and begins her tenure on July 1, 2021.”

We also gave her a chance to respond to Uniserv Executive Director Chardo Richardson’s quote found in this article. 

“Uniserv Executive Director Chardo Richardson was on the search committee and was one of the 21 members who made a recommendation. All 21 supported Beamon, where as only 13 endorsed Farnsworth.”

“She was recognized by the Florida Bar as one of the top leading experts,” Richardson details from his Altamonte office. “I believe she was top 56 in the state of Florida leading experts in public education law.”

Ms. Beamon refused to respond, however, we did receive a response to the above, through the school media person.

“In response to your recent email inquiry to Mrs. Beamon, you’ll need to follow-up with Mr. Richardson regarding any statements or claims he made as we wouldn’t be able to substantiate any claims, interpretation, or context of an interview we weren’t part of.”

So not only is Ms. Beamon not willing to answer our questions, she refuses to repudiate what is clearly a false claim by Mr. Richardson, a member of the search committee who supported her hiring.  We reached out to Mr. Richardson but have not received any response.

So there is no confusion, the Florida Bar does not ‘rate” the Board Certified attorneys in Florida.  So for Mr. Richardson 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?

In communicating my concerns on this matter to the Florida Bar, they pointed me to the Florida Rule RULE 4-7.14 POTENTIALLY MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS, the applicable portion below.

RULE 4-7.14 POTENTIALLY MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS. A lawyer may not engage in potentially misleading advertising.(a) Potentially Misleading Advertisements. Potentially misleading advertisements include, but are not limited to:
(1) advertisements that are subject to varying reasonable interpretations, 1 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;

While we agree Ms. Beamon is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Education Law, we do not agree that the Florida Bar recognizes her as an expert.  While her application may be literally accurate as it relates to being board certified, we believe claiming the Bar recognizes her as an expert could reasonably mislead the School Board and those on the search committee, such as Chardo Richardson as evidenced by his false assertions.  The way it is written appears to use the Florida Bar as an endorsement.

The message sent to the students and taxpayers of the district?

  • You don’t have to answer questions when you’re in charge.
  • You don’t have to be clear on your job applications.
  • It’s OK to stay silent when others misrepresent the truth about your credentials.

As this relates to Mr. Farnsworth, the person first selected, we find one particular statement quoted from his letter in this article to be disturbing.

“Farnsworth wrote he “sat back in silence out of respect for the (hiring) process, though I have found (the board’s) process to be terribly flawed.”

Staying silent solves nothing.  When you know a process is flawed, speak up. While Farnsworth clearly has a legal recourse he could take against the School Board, one must ask, do you want leaders that sit silent when they know things are broken?

That question applies to Beamon as well.  Let’s not forget, she 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. Pennock appears to be the lone board member who has recognized the importance of identifying failures that directly impact the future of this school district.

We agree with her call for a full investigation into the matter surrounding the hiring of the school’s next superintendent, which we agree with Mr. Farnsworth, was terribly flawed.

Our suggestion to the School Board:

  • Terminate your legal counsel, which in our opinion was a key factor contributing to the mess you find yourselves in.
  • Question each board member under oath of perjury regarding discussions with other board members outside of a meeting, including emails, texts, and phone calls.
  • Consider following your own policy on the employment of the Superintendent and determine whether or not misrepresentations were made on the applications.

Failure to address these matters is sure to teach the students that rules don’t matter.

 

 

 

 

 

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18 Comments
  • Robert O. Bogue
    Posted at 06:15h, 30 June

    Silence is not golden when it compromises the integrity of the superintendent hiring process. Silence is not golden when it wrongfully allows a candidate to proceed at the expense of any qualified candidates, candidates that follow the rules and that comply with the requirements.
    There is no question, the school board has violated it’s own processes and requirements. Proper procedure no longer matters in this school house every minute this is allowed to continue.
    So what could, a student’s parent trust them with now? Sexual abuse of a student? Sexual activity between facility and students? Drug abuse among facility and students? Gang activity within on the school grounds? Theft between students? Improving education? There is no trust.
    If you’re on a board, you’re supposed to lead with knowledge and integrity: not follow with ignorance and silence. OK, a mistake has been made. Fix it and move on.
    Kudos to the lone board member. The Florida Bar need advised of the deliberate misstatements made by this candidate. Ethics matter, where are they?

  • Michael Skubiak
    Posted at 22:12h, 30 June

    I am ashamed to be a resident of a county with a school district clearly heading south.

  • Dan Smith
    Posted at 17:56h, 01 July

    This may be the most ridiculous story I have ever read. I was in all of the meetings and this story leaves out 90% of the facts of this saga. I will agree that it was a mistake to rescind the job offer to Chad Farnsworth. Mr. Farnsworth was publicly and professionally humiliated. However, I saw first hand the group that showed up to SCPS Board meetings. They were not Chad Farnsworth fans – they were sickened by the fact that Serita Beamon would be Superintendent. It was very clear to me why they opposed Ms. Beamon. These last 4 months have brought out the worst behavior in Seminole’s parents – it was like going to a kids hockey game in the 1990s – disgraceful behavior

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 19:33h, 02 July

      Is there anything in the article that is not true? We understand there may be other issues that need to be covered however we can only cover those for which we have records to support.

      • Joy Stricker
        Posted at 06:16h, 03 July

        NOTHING is untrue in your article. Dan Smith REPEATEDLY opposes parents, going so far as posting a photo on the teacher’s union facebook page (showing unmasked parents) saying (basically) parents who oppose the mask mandate are “ignorant.” This post was taken down soon after it was posted. Parents were given surveys asking “what do you want in a Superintendent?” The NUMBER 1 reply was, “we want an educator.” Dan Smith will have you believe that parents oppose Serita because she is black. WRONG! We oppose Serita because she is a LAWYER with ZERO classroom experience. Will she do a good job as Superintendent? Only time will tell, and I for one am willing to give her the chance to be as great as Walt Griffin thinks she will be.

        • Dan Smith
          Posted at 23:14h, 03 July

          Joy – what I posted was – “If you think Education is expensive then try ignorance”. That was in reference to a group of parents who violated school board rules by refusing to wear masks in the ESC. The school board provided a room for people who did not want to wear masks but the parents raised a childish fit and bulldozed their way into the board room. People like me who are trying to be safe had to quickly move out of the way. Your group follows me around with their phones. Joy – I think you know I have never raised the issue that this group has an issue with Ms Beamon being black – it is insulting to Ms Beamon that she be reduced to being defined by the color of her skin. She is an accomplished woman and clearly qualified to be Superintendent of SCPS.

      • Dan Smith
        Posted at 16:43h, 03 July

        The first incorrect item is when you stated “The School board violated their policy when they voted to rescind the vote where a candidate for superintendent was hired”. The candidate was not hired. The motion that passed was to choose Chad Farnsworth as the s next Superintendent. As the Board has to operate openly, and Mr Farnsworth was in attendance, it could be misconstrued that he was hired He was not

        The second incorrect item is your claim that the Board violated Robert’s Rules by their Motion to Reconsider (I am assuming this was the motion as a motion rescind was not made). The Board may rescind the motion by a majority vote as long as no action was put into process (none was).

        The third incorrect item is where you state that Serita Beamon has no supervisory experience. She was director of legal services for SCPS.

        I understand that you are not a journalist (however I do like your writing style) you are not subject to the CJS, but when publishing inaccurate items – you are causing divide in the community and beyond. The only way to truly make America great again is unite as a country.

        • Kirk Allen
          Posted at 19:11h, 03 July

          The candidate was voted on by the board to be the next superintendent. You might want to brush up on Federal Fair labor laws before trying to convince people he was not hired.

          You might want to read the actual Roberts Rule we pointed to since you apparently missed what we wrote. There was NO NOTICE there was going to be a motion to rescind and under that circumstance it requires a 2/3 vote.

          You really should stop playing wordsmith games. What I said was “Nor does her application appear to disclose ten years of administration/managerial experience, successful or otherwise.” Her APPLICATION makes no reference to ten years of successful administration/managerial experience

          Not sure why you would understand something that is not true. Trying to insinuate what I posted is wrong when in fact it is not, appears to be your way causing a divide in the coummunity.

          • Dan Smith
            Posted at 22:59h, 03 July

            You asked me if any of the article was incorrect. I cited three areas. Parliamentary procedures are specific. The parliamentarian allowed the motion and nobody raised a point of order. Although I am with you regarding the poor way this was done (my heart goes out to Mr Farnsworth – it was horrible), the board followed procedures. A lawsuit was filed and and the judge saw no merit.

          • Kirk Allen
            Posted at 08:21h, 04 July

            You miss a lot of facts. The fact no one challenged the legal advice from the attorney does not mean Roberts Rules was followed. It was not. It required a 2/3 vote, end of the story.

            No, the judge did not throw it out because there was no merit. It was tossed on a standing issue from what I have read. BIG differance.

  • Joy Stricker
    Posted at 05:28h, 04 July

    A local mom (not me) filed a lawsuit regarding the “Roberts Rules” violation. The attorney tried to get an injunction filed against the School Board, to stop them from proceeding to hire Serita as Superintendent. This lawsuit failed in court. NOT because the School Board “followed the rules” and did nothing wrong, but because an injunction is a drastic action, only taken when there is no other possible relief available. The judge basically said “any damages you are claiming are purely hypothetical, so I can’t grant you an injunction.” In the current state of our country, which is HEAVILY divided along racial lines because Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, I can’t blame the judge (who is white) for refusing to force the School Board to get rid of Serita Beamon (who is black) and re-hire (“vote for”) Chad Farnsworth (who is white). And, legally speaking, an injunction is REALLY hard to get, I wasn’t surprised the lawsuit failed in court.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 08:23h, 04 July

      Great explanation.

  • NANCY LOYD
    Posted at 12:03h, 04 July

    Dan Smith,
    Here is a letter from some citizens of Seminole County. Please refrain from painting us as “angry”.

    When does doing what’s right become wrong?

    Last year, our highly rated school district began the search to replace their retiring superintendent. All the right steps appeared to be followed: form a search committee of professionals and community members; advertise the position; conduct a public survey; narrow the list of candidates by following a stated procedure; submit final candidates to the board for interviews; conduct the interviews; vote, by the board, to hire one of the candidates; announce with press releases etc the name of the newly selected superintendent and introduce him to educators and community members. A thorough and lengthy process involving many different people comes to a happy conclusion after doing what’s right. The new superintendent is invited to the next board meeting to be formally introduced.

    Everything that could have gone wrong with this scenario, did indeed go wrong. Let’s take a look:
    Some members appointed to the search committee showed racial bias when they spoke publicly in front of the board. Some members appointed to the committee were pressured by the retiring superintendent, whether tacitly or overtly. Some highly qualified candidates were not selected as finalists while less qualified candidates were.

    The undue influence of the retiring superintendent on both committee members and board members was blatant.

    Robert’s Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure followed by this board, soon became an issue: at the board meeting to introduce the new superintendent, one board member moved to rescind her prior vote. This item was not on the agenda. Just before Public Comments, the chair asked for board comments and rescinding the vote from 2 weeks earlier was brought up by one board member. Public Comment was then allowed and there were several people lined up to speak on behalf of a different finalist who had not been selected — this candidate had no teaching experience (a top priority from the public survey) and was the school board attorney who had resigned when not selected 2 weeks earlier. The board then carried the motion to rescind with a 3 to 2 vote.
    Two weeks after the motion to rescind, the board voted 3 to 2 to hire the attorney, who has no teaching or school administration background. The stellar reputation of this county was now tarnished.

    How could this happen?

    Were there Sunshine Law violations between the current superintendent, board members and committee members?
    Were Robert’s Rules of Order broken to the extent that the motion to rescind is invalid and the second candidate was not actually elected?
    Was undue influence placed on committee members to advance certain candidates and overlook others?
    Was it appropriate for the outgoing superintendent to make it well known that the attorney was his first choice all along?
    Was pressure from community members and the superintendent so overpowering that this board member changed her mind?
    Was DOJ involvement threatened if the attorney was not selected?
    Was it fiscally responsible for the board to add an unbudgeted expense to hire the attorney (who had resigned when she did not get selected) as a consultant until her term as superintendent began?

    Procedural rules are created to ensure fairness. Once those rules are broken, you no longer can claim your decision was fair or honest, no matter how well intentioned.

    The citizens of this county have questions that deserve answers.

    Nancy Loyd
    Kelly Shilson
    Jessica Tillmann
    LisaMarie Arroyo
    Shelly Ashcraft
    Michelle Burrows
    Louis Buttice
    Pattie Buttice
    David Call
    Lee Carroll
    Shilioh Charles
    Tiffany DeBerry
    Karina De La Cruz
    Kenneth elderkin
    Jason Elderkin
    Christina Ernst
    Jason Griffin
    Brandi Kitchens
    Leslie Kirschenbaum
    Ligia Lee
    Jeremy Liggett
    Deanna Magee
    Kathryn Maluda
    Hector Mendez
    Michelle Minella
    Karin Newman
    Candy Palmer
    Sarah Palmer
    Gigi Papa
    John A Papa
    John N Papa
    Lori Rice
    Kathryn Robbins
    Julia Roberts
    Nina Sandberg
    Nova Schaffnit
    Paula Snell
    Eric Soto
    Gretta Soto
    Elaine Thomas
    John Tillmann
    Emily Turner
    Britney Walker
    Jennifer Wherrell
    Melodie Wilson
    Eric Wilson
    Valerie Wuertz
    Drake Wuertz

  • Joy Stricker
    Posted at 04:53h, 05 July

    Kirk-I think it should be noted on the record for your readers NOT familiar with Seminole County that Serita Beamon herself NEVER said, “Pick me! Pick Me! I’m Black!” The same CAN’T be said about the School Board (1 member gave a speech on George Floyd 5 minutes before the Board voted for Serita 3-2) OR some members of the Sanford community (1 community member said, basically, “this is about race. I want her for no other reason than the representation as an African American woman”).

    I stand firmly on Serita’s side in this big mess. She was used as a “pawn” by the school board (who were most DEFINITELY influenced by Walt Griffin AND Sanford community members) AND Sanford community members (who I also can’t blame, they wanted Serita, who is FROM Sanford, to be our next Superintendent).

    I am sure that Serita (who btw is a lovely woman) will do a great job as our next Superintendent. But that’s not the point. The point is that the School Board “pulled a fast one” over on parents when we weren’t looking. I personally think the damage the School Board did to Seminole County will not be repaired until all board members (with the lone exception of Amy Pennock) have been replaced.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 13:36h, 05 July

      I know nothing about the woman but when she refuses to correct what was publicly claimed about her alleged rating with the BAR, that concerns me. That raises ethical questions.

      I could care less about her race, however as we have seen for years, there are those that will exploit it every chance they can and that is exactly what appears to have happened with this school board.

      • Joy Stricker
        Posted at 19:15h, 05 July

        Kirk-I think “parsing words” on Serita’s legal qualifications on her resume is entirely irrelevant and beside the point. She wasn’t applying for a position as an attorney. She was applying for a position as a Superintendent. The “big picture” here is, how did she even make it past the first round of “narrowing the field” of applicants? Was undue influence exerted on the search committee? Certainly. By whom? Sanford? Walt Griffin? I don’t know, probably both. Especially considering the School Board hired an outside firm to provide parent surveys, and parents said “we want an educator.” Serita WAS the School Board’s attorney. The School Board VOTED for our next Superintendent. Why did 1 school board member change her mind and make a motion to rescind Chad’s original 3-2 vote? Undue influence? Certainly. By whom? Sanford? Walt Griffin? Serita herself by resigning as School Board attorney when she lost the first vote? I don’t know, probably all of the above. I don’t think anybody on the school board was “swayed” by anything on Serita’s resume, above and beyond the fact that she has been a lawyer with SCPS for 16 years. I am glad you wrote this article. I am glad you are “shining a spotlight” on the rampant corruption in Seminole County. All I am saying is, in my opinion, you are “barking up the wrong tree” if you think Serita herself is anything other than an “innocent bystander” in the colossal mess our School Board created. Please read Nancy Loyd’s letter/post, which has been signed by nearly 50 residents of Seminole County. I can’t find any accusations of “wrongdoing” against Serita, unless you want to count a “resignation” as “undue influence” which I think is a stretch…

        • Kirk Allen
          Posted at 08:57h, 06 July

          Her resume was deficient. She has no school administration experience according to her resume. I agree, should should have never made it past the first round. What is disturbing though is her silence on the legal advice her employee gave the board on the voting. It was bad advice and she should have corrected it immediately. Instead, she stayed silent which indicates she put her position first, doing what is right was ignored.

    • Kirk Allen
      Posted at 13:36h, 05 July

      I know nothing about the woman but when she refuses to corrrect what was publicly claimed about her alleged rating with the BAR, that concerns me. That raises ethical questions.

      I could car less about her race, however as we have seen for years, there are those that will exploit it every chance they can and that is exactly what appears to have happened with this school board.

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