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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent chooses not to renew nine administration contracts

Carlee Simons is the first superintendent in five years to not renew administrative staff contracts

A digital sign in front of the Alachua County Public Schools district office building reads “Hiring HR Exec Director” on Sunday, June 6, 2021.
A digital sign in front of the Alachua County Public Schools district office building reads “Hiring HR Exec Director” on Sunday, June 6, 2021.

After seven months in office, Alachua County Public School superintendent Carlee Simon has sparked controversy in the community.

Carlee Simon, who was hired on Dec. 7, did not renew nine administration members’ contracts, removing them from their positions at the school year’s end.

Rather than teachers or custodians, administrative staff refers to those in charge of managing teachers and services in the school system.

“A nonrenewal is not the same thing as being fired,” Simon said at a school board meeting on June 1. “These are two different things.” 

“A non-renewal means you are not being renewed into the position you currently hold. You are not prevented from applying for other positions within the district,” she said.

Her goals as superintendent are to recruit effective staff, strengthen the district’s infrastructure and prioritize the community’s involvement in the educational process.

However, Simon is the first superintendent in the past five years to leave administrative staff’s contracts unrenewed.

“I will not be able to offer you clarity into my decision making because there are just some things that are not available for public consumption, and this is one of them,” she said during the meeting.

“It is my belief system that a high quality education is led by administrators that understand the roles, responsibilities and follow board policy,” she said. “Honestly, I’m surprised that administrators haven’t had this before.” 

None of the ACPS teachers who were contacted provided a comment. 

Some teachers and parents, such as Julie Crosby, trust Simon to make the right decision for the county. 

“I believe in Dr. Simon. I believe in her leadership,” Crosby said during the school board meeting. “I support her, and I think a lot more people do as well.”

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Others are upset by the superintendent’s lack of transparency. 

A petition created on May 28 by a group called the Citizens of Alachua County expresses discontent with Simon’s overall leadership, and it was presented during the school board meeting. As of Thursday, it had more than 1,330 signatures. 

Sandra Carlisi, the mother of Aidan Carlisi, a fifth grader at Glen Springs Elementary School, is among those disappointed by the decision. Her frustration specifically stems from the nonrenewal of Deanna Feagin, the Glen Springs Elementary School principal.

Faegin brought a positive energy to the school because she was always smiling and greeting the children, she said. She had murals painted, cleaned up the school and had each student’s name memorized.

“No one can tell us a reason, and they say they don't have to,” she said. “But it seems like there should be some sort of indication along the way. It doesn’t foster a community of inclusion and input.”

Carlisi said her son Aidan, 11, will attend Howard Bishop Middle School in the fall. They will not be directly impacted by Feagin’s departure because of this change of school, but Carlisi said she still wants to voice her concern.

“I just thought I should speak up for the parents and children that are staying behind so that they don't have another disruption,” she said.

A campaign created May 26 aims to provide financial support for Feagin’s family and any attorney fees.

Carlisi said Glen Springs has seen four different principals during her son’s time at the school, and she is not the only parent who is frustrated with the inconsistency.

Jenna Hunnicutt, a Gainesville resident of eight years and the mother of kindergartner Emily Hunnicutt and sixth grader Madison Hunnicutt, said she was shocked by the superintendent's decision.

“It was very emotional for me because I just absolutely love Glen Springs,” she said. “My oldest daughter went there from Kindergarten through fifth grade, and we just love the community of the school.”

Hunnicutt said she finds it difficult to respect the decision made by Superintendent Carlee Simon because of her failure to communicate her reasoning. 

“I feel like the power she is using is being used in the wrong way,” she said. “I am just not liking what she is doing, and it is very frustrating.”


Contact Maya Erwin at merwin@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @mayaerwin3.

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