School superintendent who defied DeSantis mask ban shown the door, calls termination vote a ‘partisan attack’

Carlee Simon, the Alachua County school board superintendent who openly defied Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s August ban on mask mandates, is now out of a job.

In a 3-2 decision, the school board voted late Tuesday night to terminate Simon’s contract, according to the Associated Press. The pivotal vote was cast by Mildred Russell, whom DeSantis appointed in August after a member who lived outside the school district was removed.

“The unprecedented partisan attack on what should be non-partisan officials is compromising the education of county children,” Simon claimed in a statement released prior to the vote.

Despite Gov. DeSantis’s threat to withhold state funding for those counties that continued to force students to mask up, Simon joined about a dozen other Florida districts in refusing to follow his order.

“Those school districts are violating state law and they are overriding parents’ judgment on this,” DeSantis stated at an August news conference. “If these entities are going to violate state law and take away parents’ rights, obviously the way it works, there are consequences for that and there will continue to be more.”

Later, in a statement from DeSantis’s office, the governor made clear what those consequences would be.

“We can confirm that any district found to be in violation of the state law would be subject to having funds withheld in an amount equal to the salaries of the superintendent and school board members,” the statement read, according to a report from Click Orlando. “Possible measures beyond that are still under discussion.”

In an August opinion piece for The Washington Post, Simon stated that she didn’t “have the luxury of ignoring the current crisis to score political points” — even if it meant her district’s funding would be pulled.

“My district is experiencing a dramatic spike in the number of employees testing positive for covid-19, and school hasn’t even started,” Simon wrote at the time. “We’ve had more cases reported in the past two weeks than in the previous five months combined. Tragically, two of our employees died from covid-related complications just over a week ago. Many others are quarantined and unable to work, and the numbers keep rising.”

“If these trends continue,” she continued, “we may not have the workforce we need to operate our schools safely.”

While Simon believes her firing is some sort of revenge for her refusal to relax her district’s mask requirements, Alachua County’s school board chair implied at Tuesday’s meeting that Simon simply wasn’t up to the task of handling the problems the district is facing and said a new superintendent may have better be better suited for the job.

“Things are not working for our school system,” Hyatt stated.

On Twitter, many are celebrating the vote.

“It’s over!!!!” one user exclaimed jubilantly. “Hope all those CNN interviews was worth it! Whoo hoo!”

“Hopefully the first of many ‘leaders’ that will be losing their jobs,” tweeted another, adding, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Carlee!”

Another echoed the sentiment: “It’s A Great Start. Let’s Keep It Going!!!!!!!!!!”

And after lines of “hahaha,” one Twitter user summed it up simply: “Bye gurl!!”

Melissa Fine


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