The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) staff attorney released an opinion Tuesday saying Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon is qualified to hold her position.
The statement came a day after a messy school board meeting in which citizens said Simon does not have the proper certification to be superintendent. A woman who identified herself as Suzanne Kay accused Simon of being in breach of her contract because her Florida Department of Education (FDOE) certification expired in 2013.
The woman raised her voice during her public comment appearance and slammed down three stacks of what she said were petitions demanding Simon be fired.
“There is no certification requirement to be a superintendent in the state of Florida,” Simon responded as the woman stormed out of the board room. “There are many superintendents who have never been educators. So I am fully qualified to serve as superintendent.”
On Wednesday, staff attorney David Delaney agreed.
“It is my opinion that Supt. Simon has not breached the terms of her contract for several reasons,” Delaney begins in a two-page letter, addressed to the board, which lays out four reasons for his position.
Delaney said Simon has not failed to “maintain and keep” a certification in place since her employment and has not had a change of status.
“Put simply, the contract says ‘maintain and keep’ not ‘obtain’, as she does not currently have a certification,” Delaney wrote in response to a request from school board member Mildred Russell, whom Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed last month.
Delaney went on to say the emphasis of the contractual provision in question is to put the burden of notification on the superintendent, should a change in status occur.
“Their [sic] have been no new developments in the certifications of this Supt. during her employment,” he wrote.
According to the FDOE website, superintendents must have the following qualifications to hold the position: A master’s or higher degree awarded by an acceptable institution and successful completion of the Florida Educational Leadership Core Curriculum.
Simon released a Wednesday statement addressing the matter, along with her CV, showing she holds a Ph.D in educational administration and policy with a focus on public school finance and is pursuing a Ph.D in design, construction and urban planning.
“I believe my educational and professional background speaks for itself,” Simon said. “Clearly this is a non-issue. It has been promoted primarily by a small group of citizens who are opposed to the district’s strong stand on masks and other strategies for limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and community.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note Simon is working on a second Ph.D. but has not yet earned it.