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Monday, December 04, 2023

After more than half a year of searching for a new superintendent for Alachua County Public Schools, some community members are unhappy with the outcome.

In a 4-to-1 vote Tuesday night, the Alachua County School Board appointed former Assistant Superintendent Karen Clarke as head superintendent. Leanetta McNealy was the only board member to oppose Clarke, giving her vote to one of the other five final candidates: Ronald “Scott” Fritz, the chief of staff for Teaching, Leading and Learning in the Osceola County School District.

McNealy told the board she felt appointing Clarke is both a waste of time and money, since she could’ve assumed the role back in June 2016 after former superintendent Owen Roberts resigned.

“Why would we sit up here and make this kind of decision tonight when we could have been so much further along back in June?” she said at the Tuesday meeting. “I don’t know if the citizenry of this great community will understand it either.”

During the public input segment of the meeting, 11 community members addressed the board. Six openly endorsed Fritz for the superintendent position.

Only one endorsed Clarke for the position.

“I think they made a huge mistake,” said Addison Staples, a 34-year-old Gainesville father of two. “I’m disturbed that they’re basically not listening to the cries of the community.”

Staples, the executive director for the Aces in Motion youth outreach program, said he feels the board has given up on the No.1 issue facing the school system: the disparity between Gainesville’s white and black students.

Staples lays within east Gainesville’s failing schools and the racial segregation present between magnet and public programs within schools in west Gainesville.

“The kids are failing, and there’s no shot of them getting into secondary education,” Staples said. “It’s a majority, and it should a minority.”

While he doesn’t know Clarke personally, Staples said he feels she ultimately is part of a system that’s failing black students in the county.

“I don’t think she has experience in hardly any of the things we have problems with,” he said. “The status quo is not OK.”

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April Tisher, a parent who endorsed Clarke during Tuesday’s meeting told the board that she’s happy with the work Clarke has done in the county so far.

“I feel like we need somebody who is committed to Alachua County, who’s not going to leave us in a few years for other opportunities,” Tisher said. “I think she’s done a great job.”

As of press time, Clarke could not be reached for comment.

 Contact David Hoffman at  and follow him on Twitter: @hoffdavid123.


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