BUNNELL, Fla. - Bunnell Elementary School Principal Donelle Evensen has resigned her post in the aftermath of a segregated school assembly that took place on her watch. She is the first employee to depart the district in the aftermath of a controversy which thrust Flagler Schools onto the international news stage.
Marcus Sanfilippo, currently serving as the district's Coordinator of Special Projects, will step into the role of interim principal at BES. Sanfilippo was principal there up until his promotion to the district office, at which point he was replaced by Evensen. That shuffling occurred in late July, less than one month before the assembly in question would be held.
As of Thursday afternoon, the district's internal investigation into what happened is still underway, with its conclusion expected this week according to a memo from newly-appointed Superintendent LaShakia Moore. "I know this has been a rocky start to the year but we as a school and organization are committed to restoring the rest of this year," Moore said. "There are many great things that are happening at BES and we will continue to do even more great things."
Though Evensen was presumably not the one who came up with the assembly, she has faced the bulk of the scrutiny due to reports that she was informed of it and gave it her stamp of approval. She had already been placed on administrative leave prior to her suspension, along with one of the educators considered to be responsible. The assembly, which Evensen attended for a short time, consisted of all Black students who were identified as having issues with test scores. They were told their lives may lead to prison or death-by-gun-violence if they did not succeed in school, and then they were placed into an academic tournament against one another. Principal Evensen said in her resignation letter that these students were addressed in a 'positive manner'. Some parents of students in these fourth and fifth grade groups said their students received consistently high grades, leaving only one plausible criterion for their inclusion in the assembly.
Evensen's letter of resignation did not assume accountability for what occurred, as many parents and community members had hoped it might. Instead, Evensen is still adamant of her innocence in the scandal. "I have not deserved the time of leave that I have been placed on," she said, "and I certainly do not deserve anything less than the position I currently have as Principal of Bunnell Elementary."