Board Chairman: Superintendent told us not to talk to staff | News

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Board Chairman: Superintendent told us not to talk to staff

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The combative relationship between the Superintendent of Clay County School and the School Board has reached a new level.

A new directive laid out by Superintendent Charlie Van Zant has many upset.

Clay County school superintendent Charlie Van Zant and the school board have been at odds over several issues since Van Zant's election in the fall. So much so the Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to both parties asking them to cool it because it was hurting the reputation of the county.

The latest salvo fired by the Superintendent this week: If you are a member of the Clay County School Board and want to ask a question of the school system staff, don't.

That is what school board Chairman Carol Studdard said she was told this week by a staff member. She said she was told if she or any school board member had a question, take it to Van Zant.

Studdard doesn't like it one bit.

"I don't think it is a good idea. We need to work in the spirit of cooperation. It is important that we be able to talk to staff and get information about issues so that we know how to vote on issues before the school board."

Elementary teacher Steve Richards, also president of the teacher's union, the Clay County Education Association, said it prevents board members from doing their jobs.

"I think the superintendent putting a gag order on our public officials is ridiculous. He needs to be focused on communicating with the board rather than bar them from asking the important questions the public should know," Richards said.

Fleming Island resident Carolyn Wright doesn't think it's a good idea either.

"I think it is too controlling, and too much control for one person to have," Wright said.

Van Zant, meanwhile, said he never issued a directive and he is trying to save valuable staff time this time of year.

"What I did ask a couple of my senior staff members is to let me help my school board members first, which is common in most school districts. It allows me to find out if there is an issue they all have, or one has, or if I have to send an email or all of them to explain an issue," he said.

Studdard has been on the board 20 years and has never been asked not to talk to staff. Two other members told First Coast News it was a not a good use of time.


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