School board switches superintendent vote

Dr. Serita Beamon was chosen as the next superintendent of schools.

photo by Seminole County Public Schools

Dr. Serita Beamon was chosen as the next superintendent of schools.

One flip vote could change everything. 

And it did, at a quickly scheduled meeting on March 1, when the Seminole County Public School Board named former SCPS school board attorney Serita Beamon as the new superintendent of schools. 

Before the commotion ensued, Chad Farnsworth was originally hired over Beamon in a meeting on Feb. 9 in a 3-2 vote. In the Feb. 23 meeting, numerous community members and SCPS employees expressed their concerns with Farnsworth being chosen over Beamon, who has over 16 years experience in the district compared to Farnsworth who had only worked in smaller counties prior.  

“Ms. Beamon is an educator, relationship builder, member of our family and a leader,” former deputy superintendent Dr. Cote said at the Feb. 23 meeting. “She learns deeply and quickly, and accurately assesses what needs to be done to sustain our culture.”

After reviewing public comments, school board member Dr. Tina Calderone made a motion to rescind the vote previously naming Farnsworth as the next superintendent. The motion passed and a meeting for March 1 was scheduled to re-discuss the decision. 

“I’m concerned our 3-2 vote lacked context, our votes were perhaps cast without the kind of back-and-forth that leads to sound decisions,” Calderone said during the meeting, which was aired on YouTube

With over four and a half hours of public comments and board dialogue at the next meeting, there was plenty of discourse for Calderone and the board to take into consideration. It was during this discussion where board members freely spoke on which candidate they felt was best for the job. This includes board member Amy Pennock who opened up about her concerns of Beamon’s lack of educational experience.

“How can we continue to ask our teachers to do more and more and more, when the leader of our organization has never walked in our shoes?” Pennock said. 

Farnsworth was originally favored due to his experience as both a teacher and administrator in schools, in addition to the fact that he had previously been a superintendent. Beamon has experience in neither.  

With the selection process in the spotlight, some questioned how the board chose their candidates. Surrounding counties hire professional outside agencies to aid in the hiring process of superintendents, including Polk County who recently hired the Florida School Board Association to assist them in finding the right person for the job. Seminole County’s drama caused many to wonder why they did not do the same.

“It is concerning to me, because I didn’t understand the whole process,” school board member Kristine Kraus said. 

The board never did come to a full agreement, leading to yet another 3-2 vote, however this time in favor of Beamon. Although the decision is not final, as Beamon’s contract is still under negotiation, it is likely she will begin her duties as superintendent sometime this April.