FLEMING ISLAND – Superintendent Addison Davis had a short agenda last week in what likely will be his final school board meeting.
Davis is expected to resign from the Clay County School District to begin his new position as the Hillsborough County School District Superintendent by the end of the month. What could turn out to be his final meeting had notes of somberness that nobody in the room wanted to address.
“Thank you to the constituents for trusting in a leader they did not know,” Davis said, addressing the elephant in the room. “I’m grateful for their confidence in me and in the last [3½] years, we’ve done some amazing work...and we’ve created some awesome experiences for our children.”
The school board and Davis kept it relatively professional when saying their public goodbyes. Board member Janice Kerekes thanked Davis for his commitment to Clay County education. Board members Ashley Gilhousen, Mary Bolla and Tina Bullock agreed. Board Chair Carol Studdard, clearly the most shaken up by Davis’ decision to leave, said she’ll save her goodbyes for his final State of the Schools address on Feb. 25. She did say she supports his decision to leave.
Davis often gazed to the public throughout the meeting, perhaps thinking about what he accomplished in Clay County. One thing was clear though: Clay County was his home, and despite his excitement for his new job, it won’t be easy saying goodbye.
Despite the air of inevitability, the board still conducted its business.
The school board voted 5-0 to approve a policy that would revert any superintendent’s salary back to the base salary upon the entrance of a new superintendent. The goal of this motion was to stop an incoming superintendent, be it the one the governor appoints or the one elected in November, from receiving the same salary as Davis, which includes supplements tacked on to his base salary.
The supplements are determined by the board based on a superintendent’s accomplishments and Kerekes, who put the item on the agenda, said it wouldn’t make sense for a new superintendent to start with a salary that includes those supplements.
The board also approved a motion with a 5-0 vote to advertise a policy for a future public hearing to allow the board to select an interim superintendent until Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints an interim.
The board made it clear on Feb. 6 they aren’t trying to pass a policy to give them the power to appoint a superintendent. The school board wouldn’t need a new policy in an ideal situation, Studdard said. It’s a “Plan B” if the governor doesn’t quickly appoint an interim.
Until an interim is selected, the district will be at a standstill since the superintendent is responsible for setting the agenda. Without that, the board can’t vote on policy, school board attorney Bruce Bickner said.
“I hope this policy is never used,” Studdard said. “I have faith that the governor will make an appointment in a timely manner but in case there’s a delay, this allows us to [continue our work].”
Gilhousen said under the current district structure, there is no second-in-command to fill the position.
A public hearing for the policy change will be held at a future meeting before the board formally votes. The State of Schools address coming on Feb. 25 will be Davis’ final duty with the district. It begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Thrasher-Horne Center in Orange Park.