BUNNELL, Fla. - Flagler School Board member Sally Hunt and Wadsworth Elementary School Principal Paul Peacock have both spoken out in the aftermath of a series of texts being released showing conversation about the state of Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt's contact. Peacock responded to a series of questions, while Hunt responded in an email addressed to the writers of the Palm Coast Observer, but also sent to AskFlagler.com (where the writer of this piece also works as a reporter) for reasons unclear.
The texts provided can be viewed here: Texts_PRR_Redacted-1
The most seemingly notable portion of these communications is a drafted document sent by Peacock, via a photo of a computer screen, to Hunt which appears to show a step-by-step for the procedures of firing Superintendent Mittelstadt. This communication occurred in February, before talks of her contract had heated up to the point they're at now. The email is hard to see in the document, but reads as follows:
1. Make motion to discuss and address Super's contract. If second, then you can discuss and address.
2. After discussion, make the Motion to terminate and get the second. Once there is a second, it has to be voted on or withdrawn.
3. If Chair or Gavin object that it's improper, have her check where in Roberts rules which governs Board policy 206 C1, last [indecipherable].
4. If they object follow the abuse of process website above.
For context, tensions between Peacock and Mittelstadt have arisen due to a grievance filed by the former over a demotion within the school district. That grievance was rejected by the School Board on Tuesday.
Peacock responded to a question about this checklist, which had the word 'Script' written over it, implying it was intended a guide for Hunt to carry out Mittelstadt's firing. His comments were as follows: "I did not draft an email, the screen shot was from research obtained regarding Robert's Rules/Parliamentary Procedures. I had suggested obtaining outside counsel to navigate through this process as it was my opinion that Ms. Gavin was manipulating the rules in favor of the superintendent. My sole purpose in providing the information was to get to a place to allow 5 school board members to make a decision regarding Ms. Mittelstadt's contract. There are currently 5 school board members seated and in authority to make decisions regarding all aspects of Flagler County Schools."
In addition to this portion, Peacock and Hunt's communications also referred to a series of in-person meetings between the two. These are to be expected, as Hunt has served as the Board's liaison to Wadsworth Elementary School since taking her seat late last year. Asked what occurred in these conversations, Peacock's response was of greater length:
"My conversations with Ms. Hunt have included my thoughts regarding the 'Guardian' program specifically that removing our SRD's is non-negotiable, the SRD's must remain on our campuses. Our need for an alternative school in Flagler County, the securing of an outside door at Wadsworth elementary school that was not functioning properly, her concerns over the hay ride we sponsored last fall as she was extremely worried for the safety of our students and liability for the district if someone was injured. My suggestion: if she wanted to discuss the district's academic record there was no one better qualified than Dusty Sims to decipher any fact from fiction in the data reported as he manages school improvement for the entire state.
"Dusty Sims is honorable, trustworthy and extremely knowledgeable. I inquired about her health when she was ill. I wished for her to enjoy Disney World with her family. I shared a picture of my front yard with the sprinklers on. Regarding Ms. Mittelstadt from my perspective as the Principal of Indian Trails Middle School, the Chief of Operations and Chief Negotiator and as the Principal of Wadsworth Elementary, in my opinion and speaking only for myself, I am not confident that Ms. Mittelstadt is the right person to lead Flagler Schools.
I represented that she was hard working and well intended but questioned her visibility with and support for school based leadership. I expressed my confidence in LaShakia Moore stepping in as interim superintendent thereby giving the board an opportunity to search and determine who the best candidate would be as the next Superintendent of Flagler County Schools including Ms. Moore as a candidate in that search. I expressed my confidence in the 9 current principals and their staff being prepared to open schools for the 2023-2024 school year. I assured her buildings would be ready, schedules completed, staff hired and safety procedures in place."
Significant in this portion is the mention of Dusty Sims; Hunt voluntarily revealed to AskFlagler, FlaglerLive, and the Palm Coast Observer in March that she'd contacted Sims about potential interest in the Flagler Schools Superintendent job in the future. Sims is a former principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and though he returned Hunt's communications he did not comment on his interest level in the job.
The last item Peacock was asked to give comment on was a screenshot from his texts with Hunt appearing to show Michael Chiumento, Peacock's attorney, reaching out to facilitate a one-on-one meeting with Hunt. Chiumento has represented Peacock in his efforts to seek legal redress from the school district. Neither Hunt nor Peacock confirmed that a meeting between Hunt and Chiumento occurred, but Peacock did volunteer the following: "I have never met with Mr. Chiumento and Ms. Hunt together. I am not aware and have no knowledge of Mr. Chiumento and Mrs. Hunt meeting ever."
This quote was in response to a question about whether Hunt and Chiumento had met, not whether the three had all met together. Chiumento has also been contacted for comment and has not responded as of Saturday afternoon.
Sally Hunt has not granted requests for interviews or further comment, but on Friday she included the site in a communication sent to the writers of the Palm Coast Observer. It's unclear if this was erroneous, or a choice to show another news outlet her feelings toward recent Observer reporting. She opened by addressing Observer Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Simmons, noting that she was keeping her email professional and including a modest insult toward the outlet's recent reporting on her time on the Board.
She then went on to comment on her recent communications with Paul Peacock. "I have primarily reached out to the Florida School Board Association (not Paul Peacock) for guidance on navigating school board matters, including Superintendent Mittelstadt's contract," she said. "I have a trusted peer advisor through FSBA who I speak with frequently. The majority of my conversations with Mr. Peacock have been on the topics of safety and operational efficiency."
She then also pushed back against a sentiment that she alone had rushed discussion of Cathy Mittelstadt's contract, anecdotally describing similar sentiments from Board members Will Furry and Colleen Conklin and from Mittelstadt herself. Hunt was, to an extend, correct. At a workshop on February 7th, her fellow Board members were receptive to tackling the issue soon.
According to Hunt, she left the February 7th workshop expecting that one-on-one meetings would be arranged between each Board member and the Superintendent in the near future. "It was also my understanding the superintendent's assistant would be reaching out to schedule one-on-one meetings between Superintendent Mittelstadt and each board member for the purpose of discussing Cathy's evaluation," Hunt said. "Not only did I not hear anything about the one-on-one, I was disappointed when I learned the contract was not on the March agenda, as discussed. There is no conspiracy here, only a dedicated school board member."