School board takes small step to replace attorney

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 11/7/18

FLEMING ISLAND – The Clay County School Board will hold a workshop on Nov. 26 to determine how the board will move forward to replace the school board attorney.

School Board Attorney David …

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School board takes small step to replace attorney


FLEMING ISLAND – The Clay County School Board will hold a workshop on Nov. 26 to determine how the board will move forward to replace the school board attorney.

School Board Attorney David D’Agata recently announced to the board that he was resigning from his position in Clay County to take a position as the Deputy General Counsel for the Florida Department of Education. His final day will be Dec. 21, which means the school board has about seven weeks to find his replacement. D’Agata urged the school board to start the process during its regular Nov. 1 school board meeting.

“I want to do everything that I can to make sure that everyone is in a good place,” D’Agata said. “The board, you’re my client and I do an awful lot of work for the administration as well, and really what we’re looking at here, and what I would hope to achieve, is to get the ball rolling and get the data that is necessary for the board as it is constituted post-Nov. 6 to have the relevant data in front of it and potentially, have candidates, at least present themselves as interested early as perhaps the end of the month.”

D’Agata said he knows that is very ambitious, but because of the short time he has in his current position, he believes it is imperative the board get started quickly.

He recommended the board hire a staff attorney to focus solely on operational concerns and the Superintendent and staff and have a second attorney or law firm to represent the school board. While the school board was open to D’Agata’s

recommendation and agreed to hold a workshop Nov. 26 at 9 a.m. in the District Office Accounts Payable Conference Room in Green Cove Springs.

While the D’Agata replacement issue took up a large portion of the meeting, it began with three attendees who commented on the runoff election between incumbent District 5 school board member Ashley Gilhousen and her lawsuit against her opponent Lynne Chafee. Gilhousen’s suit alleges Chafee is not a resident of District 5 and therefore, should not be on the ballot.

However, before attendees could speak, Chairman Carol Studdard read a legal statement D’Agata recommended regarding the public comment portion of the meeting and how that time is set aside solely for matters pertaining to the school board and the agenda at hand.

All three speakers, one of whom was school board member Betsy Condon’s husband, Joe Condon, criticized the board for maintaining their support of Chafee in light of Gilhousen’s accusation.

Joe Condon asked that board members who supported Chafee resign should the courts rule in Gilhousen’s favor. Studdard asked speakers to refrain from use of slander or defaming anyone. She also explained that the school board has no say over the qualifications of a candidate.

“I want you to understand something,” Studdard said. “This school board conducts the business of the school district. We have no control over who runs for an election, who doesn’t run for an election and how people vote.

“This is not the proper forum to vent political disparagement against anybody. This board has nothing to do with the political race, lawsuits or anything – that is totally out of our purview,” Studdard said.

In other business:

The Nov. 1 school board meeting also served as the last meeting for District 3 school board member Betsy Condon, who lost in the August primary to former school board member Tina Bullock. Condon’s supporters praised her service over the past four years, while she took the opportunity to offer parting words of advice.

Gilhousen said she was honored to have served “in the trenches” with Condon.

“You are a class act. You are a professional in everything you do. You’ve brought an incredible amount of expertise...I respect you deeply and I appreciate your friendship and everything you brought to this board and I hope you know that you can walk out of here with your head held high because you’ve done and given so much to this county and its children,” Gilhousen said.

Condon reminded the board that although she’s no longer serving, she will remain involved.

“I would just implore you to remember that you are here to serve one purpose and that’s the students of this county,” Condon said. “Everybody, all of the employees, chose to get into education because they love kids and they love imparting knowledge...for the rewarding career you’ve all chosen, whether it’s the support...or our teachers and administrators...that’s why I ran. I believe that I kept parents and students at the forefront of my decisions.

“I will pay attention. I will come and speak. What we’re doing here matters and I still have a kid in school and it still matters a whole lot to me and even when he graduates, it will still matter. It truly is about raising Clay County’s future,” Condon said.


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