“Certainly it does appear the board wants to decide this issue sometime in 2020, I think it’s just a matter of figuring out when. I think the majority believes the voters should decide.”
It has become clear the Okaloosa County School Board won’t likely go along with the idea of holding a March referendum to decide whether the district’s superintendent should be appointed rather than elected.
But Patrick Ryan, the head of the organization leading the charge for the referendum, said he’s convinced the board is still willing to have the voice of county voters heard.
“Certainly it does appear the board wants to decide this issue sometime in 2020, I think it’s just a matter of figuring out when,” Ryan, the spokesman for Yes For Okaloosa Schools, said. “I think the majority believes the voters should decide.”
Ryan attended the Sept. 23 meeting of the School Board to call out members for what he clearly believed to be their lack of support for holding any referendum.
“It’s obvious some of you won’t work with us or take input from the voters to improve accountability in our district leadership,” he said.
He railed against three of the five members specifically and told Board Member Linda Evanchyk “Your excuses for refusing to hold a referendum on superintendent selection are pretty questionable.”
Following Ryan’s address, a discussion was held during which some board members seemed to indicate their willingness to hold a referendum at the time of the November 2020 general election, rather than in March 2020, when Ryan has said he wants it held.
Evanchyk said her research has indicated that a March referendum would not only be expensive, but held alongside a Democratic Presidential Primary in a Republican stronghold county.
Ryan pointed out that there are three Republican candidates who have announced they will run against President Donald Trump in 2020, but conceded it is not clear whether Florida’s Republican Party will allow those candidates names to appear on next year’s ballot.
Ryan also argued that if a referendum were approved for the March ballot, the ballot would be open to all registered voters.
Board Member Diane Kelley said she doesn’t want to hold the referendum in March because it would then appear alongside a referendum to increase the local option sales tax to raise money to address School District infrastructure needs.
“You know how desperately in need we are of improving our facilities,” she said. “For me that overshadows the desire to decide the way we choose our superintendent.”
Member Tim Bryant has expressed his support for a November superintendent referendum, according to Ryan, but Bryant did not respond when asked by Ryan to do so again at the Monday meeting.
Dewey Destin, the lone board member praised by Ryan for supporting from the outset the idea of an appointed superintendent referendum, offered up the idea of placing the item on the August 2020 ballot at which local government candidates will be up for election.