McNealy: Entire school board might have to resign

School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) Chair Leanetta McNealy said on Tuesday that all of the SBAC members should resign after learning that the last time the SBAC updated its redistricting resolution was in 2001.

When Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon revealed that the voting districts used in electing school board members have not been updated since 2001, McNealy said the SBAC has failed to do its job. The maps are supposed to be updated every 10 years on an odd year after new Census reporting.

“If we have not since 2001, then [Gunnar] Paulson, [Tina] Certain, [Rob] Hyatt and myself—we are all with the problem,” McNealy said. “We all may need to step down. We are all suspect as far as our district and that makes me a little nervous.”

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The discussion came on the heels of a public petition, now with almost 600 signatures, calling on SBAC member Diyonne McGraw to resign because she was elected to represent District 2 but lives in District 4—an issue the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections has confirmed. 

When the topic of McGraw’s residency came up at Tuesday’s special meeting—which was on the topic of a job description overhaul for district staff—Simon told the board about her findings regarding the lack of redistricting.

According to the Alachua County policy for running for a school board seat: “School Board districts are for purposes of determining eligibility for candidacy. The seats are elected by the county at large, but potential candidates must reside in the district they seek to run in.”

Those district boundaries are supposed to be updated as census data changes.

The topic became a heated discussion after Hyatt asked the board if it would be appropriate to vote on any motion during Tuesday’s meeting. Citing constituent feedback, he asked for a delay in voting because any vote would involve two members who live in District 4, potentially throwing doubt on the outcome.

But Chair McNealy made it clear that today’s public comments needed to be about the agenda items only.

“Save all of those comments for citizen comment at next week’s meeting,” McNealy said. “This meeting pertains to descriptions of jobs.”

It was during the board and superintendent comment portion that other topics came up, including the lack of an updated resolution that reflects current census data.

Board member Certain brought up Hyatt’s suggestion that the board not vote today and said that in the past the SBAC has tried to be congenial, but it was “off the rails lately.”

“People are attacking fellow board members when we have an [unsubstantiated] accusation,” she said. 

Certain went on to say that the controversy over McGraw’s status was not about where she lives, but about overturning an election.

“Their candidate didn’t win,” she said. “Now they are trying to overturn the will of the people.”

Certain said Hyatt had smeared his colleague by asking if it was appropriate to vote. She then said she had a copy of Hyatt’s response to a citizen asking about McGraw’s situation and accused Hyatt of joining forces with Republican elected officials such as Newberry Commissioner Tim Marden, state Rep. Chuck Clemons and state Sen. Keith Perry.

“It seems you are undermining one of our own without seeing anything in writing that states she does not live in the district,” Certain said, comparing the effort to those who want to overturn the last presidential election.

“For Miss Certain to accuse anyone else of being non-collegial, her Facebook presence over the last seven years is a little rich” Hyatt retorted, adding that he has screenshots Certain’s past posts.

Hyatt said he was asking a simple question about state laws possibly being violated.

“For me to be lined up with all the other right-wing folks you named is a little bit silly and not looking at what the question is,” Hyatt said. “I did not say that Miss McGraw should not vote. The board should not make major decisions when we have a situation that has divided a district.”

Hyatt listed three possible outcomes—McGraw steps down, the governor becomes involved or there is a lawsuit—but conceded he does not know what the correction remedy is. He stood behind his email response, noting it’s part of the public record. 

“We swore to uphold laws,” he said.

Chair McNealy chimed in saying she was disappointed.

“As chairman I’m not in agreement with asking to hold up the vote,” she said. “Until we get to the end of whatever this discussion is leading us to, we are going to vote. Come Tuesday when there will be business to contend with, we will be voting.”

She then said that nothing else will be stated about anyone: “We got it off our chests. It’s done.”

The morning part of the public hearing was then adjourned and is in recess until the SBAC reconvenes tonight at 6 p.m. Board member Gunnar Paulson was not in attendance at the morning hearing.

Board member McGraw, who was elected last year, reiterated that she has no plans to step down.

“I will continue to serve all of the children in Alachua County,” she said before asking the community “to pray that we move forward.”

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