Martin County School Board

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Martin County School Board


School Board Latest News From The November 22, 2020 Edition



Marsha Powers and Mike DiTerlizzi were sworn in for their new four-year terms after running unopposed in the recent election.  This was also an historic moment for Martin County education. Laurie Gaylord has now finished her 2nd term. She will be the last elected superintendent in Martin County. As of November 17th, Dr. John Millay has become the first appointed superintendent in the county. He will report directly to the board. The fundamental relationship between superintendent and board has changed.

Millay does not report to the people. He doesn’t have to stand for election. Unlike Gaylord, his bosses are now the school board members.  

The board can no longer blame the superintendent if something goes wrong. There was a separation of authority that is no longer there. The buck stops with them. That does not mean the board becomes involved in day-to-day operations. If those operations go wrong, they are now accountable for it.  

It was also time to pick the chair and vice chair for another year. Tony Anderson nominated and made the motion for Powers. It was seconded by DiTerlizzi and passed 5-0. Li Roberts nominated Anderson and made the motion that was seconded by Powers. It passed 5-0.   Once again, congratulations to this chair and vice chair.


A few weeks ago, there was a proclamation that was championed by Victoria Defenthaler regarding LGBTQ+ month in October. It was contentious and had many public speakers against it. In fact, it died for a lack of a 2nd. As far as the board is concerned, it is history.  

Then why did most of the public speakers who were against the proclamation need to denounce it again at this meeting. Neither the proclamation nor any suggestion of it being discussed was on the agenda. Sometimes, you must know when you won and accept victory. There were a few who spoke in favor of the proclamation who were mostly students.  

The board’s resolution that passed regarding all students being accepted for whom they are is hard to disagree with regardless of your beliefs. I wouldn’t call it a courageous gesture by any means. Yet it hit the right note for most of Martin County’s parents and residents. The board recognizes this and none of them are anxious to do anything more.  

For those who didn’t want to see the proclamation passed, you need to accept that the board agrees with you. This is a contentious issue with strong proponents on both sides of the question. It is time to let the matter rest.  

If Defenthaler or any other school board member tries to resurrect this contentious issue, it will be time to once again come out and speak. Until then, let’s put down our rhetorical weapons and return to our ploughs.



School Board Latest News From The November 8, 2020 Edition




This was Laurie Gaylord’s last meeting as superintendent.

Her report was primarily one detailing what the district has accomplished since she became superintendent in 2012. She will be the last elected superintendent in Martin County. People fought hard to finally get the electorate to vote to do away with their collective ability to choose. Will it be better or worse?


In some cases, there should be a more cohesive carrying out of policy. The superintendent answering to the board will place the five school board members firmly in charge. They now own their decisions and their implementation. If something is not being done, then they are the ones accountable.


Ms. Gaylord served the district well if not always on the same track as the board. Eight years of being on the firing line is a long time. Martin County citizens, students and district employees owe her thanks for placing herself in the hot seat. Good luck!


Martin County School District has initiated its own COVID-19 website that tracks cases in the schools. This is a very handy tool, and this should be parents first stop to know what is going on. It may cut down on the misinformation that has been easily spreading when it comes to COVID. It tells how many confirmed cases there are in the district and breaks it down by school.


It is updated daily. You can access it from the school district’s website (




How do you start a controversy in Martin County Schools? This is a textbook example…so to speak.

In an earlier meeting, Board Member Defenthaler wanted to have a proclamation supporting LGBTQ+ History Month. She thought it was important that those students should feel that they were part of the school family. Mr. Anderson and Mr. DiTerlizzi expressed some hesitancy. It looked to me like she had everyone supporting the proclamation except DiTerlizzi at the end of that last meeting.


Ms. Roberts in fact did an impressive presentation even going further than the proclamation and explaining ways of having a diversity class on LGBTQ+ history. There was not a mention of that at this meeting by her or anyone else.


In the interim, Roberts worked on an extensive resolution speaking about diversity without mentioning LGBTQ + students. The resolution mentioned in some detail the steps the district has taken in furthering anti-bullying and promoting acceptance of all. It states how the district has implemented policies to conform with Florida and federal law.


The many public speakers were not in support. Most expressed that it was not the place of the public schools to speak to non-educational matters. There were several members of the clergy who spoke against the measure.


Stuart Mayor Mike Meier spoke in favor. He is a graduate of the Martin County system. Even though he came from a loving home, he had some of the same issues expressed in the proclamation. He was bullied, skipped school, and at times contemplated suicide. He would have liked to see a sign from local leaders of support. He urged the board to set aside the fear and rhetoric.


One speaker stated that he would run a candidate against any school board member who would vote in favor of the proclamation. He had already raised $12,500 and were looking to have $100,000. He went on to say that things were fine, and nothing needs to change. Our kids love everyone.


Martin County is conservative both politically and socially. It tells you that it is open and friendly. And to some extent it is…except when it is not.


From the last meeting, there was no mention of a resolution in support of diversity. It was strategically placed on the agenda to come before Defenthaler’s proclamation. The bulk of the discussion from the Board centered on the much less controversial resolution.


Early on, Defenthaler suggested about diversity training for the board. It was not addressed further.


DiTerlizzi wanted to know cost associated with moving forward. He said the resolution follows current law and there is already an anti-bullying policy in place. It does not single out any one group. He went on to say that sex education and other things should not be shoved down anyone’s throat.


Anderson said this has nothing to do with his personal views. It is about the public, his constituents. He addressed the person that threatened to spend money against any board member that voted in favor of the proclamation. Anderson expressed his outrage and that it was an insult that he or any of his colleagues would bow to pressure.


He is right there. And I am glad Tony Anderson said that. Besides the two board members that were up for re-election this year faced no challengers. I can’t think of a less potent threat.


Powers likes the resolution and the way it expresses things. She believes the proclamation is too narrowly focused. The resolution is inclusive of all. She will support the resolution. If it helps one student, it would have been good.


DiTerlizzi wants to see data specific to the district regarding the proclamation.


A motion was made by Anderson to issue the resolution. It was seconded by Roberts. It passed 4-1 with DiTerlizzi voting no.


It was then Defenthaler’s turn to speak to her proclamation about LGBTQ+ History Month. She had been taken by surprise regarding not only the resolution but that it had been used as an alternative to her proclamation. She now knew that she had been led down a path. The support she thought she had from other board members evaporated once oppositional emails began flooding in.

She then made a motion to issue the proclamation. It failed for a lack of a second. The silence was deafening.


This shows the limits of what can be done when it comes to more than the “3Rs” in not just Martin County but in most public-school settings. We live in a political world and the schools are not immured from its effects. We are not California or New York and attempting to be too open about differing views on sexuality are not going to fly here. And without support of the community, it never will.




There is something to be said for those who are elected being in charge. This meeting was a good example of when that occurs.


The education of the students was not to be discussed. Nor were the proposed new school buildings. There was some concern about car lines and parking.  The real concern was the positioning of the two community playgrounds.

School Board Member DiTerlizzi appears to have reached out to his old colleagues on the BOCC to come to a solution on new school settings for Palm City and Jensen Beach. Commissioner Ciampi is generally able to finesse differences and come to resolutions. He did so here by making sure he had rounded up the PTA and other concerned citizens to speak out for Palm City.


Commissioner Smith was there on behalf of Jensen Beach and had rallied that school’s PTA. He spoke not only on the playground issue but a brief history of the hydrology of the site. At the BOCC last meeting, Smith talked about engaging the Treasure Coast Planning Council to do a charrette whether the district wanted to participate or not. Today he was looking for resolution and not to prolong the building of the schools.


The staff responsible for the project has done a remarkable job in ignoring and alienating the schools’ surrounding communities and the PTAs. Why wouldn’t you want to involve and get approval from the people? Maybe it is because staff does not run for office. They do not ask the people to hire them as do both school board and county commissioners.


I doubt if the staff would have done anything if it weren’t for those that are elected. How do you alienate the public? By doing just what staff did! These parents and the broader community are stakeholders. They are not being unreasonable in their concerns with playgrounds that they built and have contributed money to their maintenance. Those PTAs have agreements with the School Board regarding those existing playgrounds.


Once discussion was held, the workshop was adjourned, and a special meeting began.


DiTerlizzi moved that Plan B be approved in Jensen Beach with the paving of the rock roadway in the rear using as much stabilized turf as possible. It was seconded by Roberts. The motion passed 5-0

For Palm City, DiTerlizzi moved that Plan A be approved. It was seconded by Anderson. The motion passed 5-0.


In both passed plans, the playgrounds stay where they are. Was that the best design? Probably not in all ways except politically. Perhaps with better outreach, a better outcome could have been realized. John Millay, the incoming superintendent, has just seen another challenge. Education is not the only thing to be concerned with in Martin County.


School Board Latest News From The October 18, 2020 Edition



The Board had a very brief presentation on redistricting.


Interestingly, it seems that enrollment is continuing to fall. There has been a decline of 1000 students attending county schools. There is no way of knowing how many of these students will be returning to class once the pandemic ends. But there has been declining enrollment for several years now…just not to this extent.


Perhaps as approved developments are built, enrollment will begin to increase.  Several projects have recently been approved in Stuart which would probably add the most students. As of today, only one of those projects has come out of the ground. I would suspect that maybe half of these will be built. That is the nature of development.


A redistricting committee will begin work in February 2021 and perhaps by the start of the 2022 year, children will be going to different schools. However, it was decided to make Jensen Beach High School open for all since it has the most capacity of any of the high schools.

In the next few years, I would imagine that another charter school will open, and perhaps other choices will be made available for parents and their children. The District seems to be stuck in a mid-20th century model which increasingly may not be what their customers want. It is even more puzzling that the District is building needed replacements for two elementary schools (Jensen Beach and Palm City) using the very models that are proving obsolete.


The presentation which was given to the Board in handouts was not part of the agenda packet. I could not see anything being projected on the screen from my home computer, and the two Board Members that were participating remotely didn’t have the information. I hope the new Superintendent and the Board stop this all-too-often practice of not having agenda backup included.


You can see the presentation here




As I wrote above, both Palm City and Jensen Beach are being built to accommodate students and teachers for several hours a day when school is in session. Evenings, weekends, and summers these building, costing $64 million, will sit unused by those same students, teachers, and every resident of the County. What a waste!


Both those schools have community playgrounds that are open to the public and were built by volunteers raising funds to do so. In the redesign, the playgrounds will have to be moved and will be recreated. The Board has promised that the new playgrounds will be better.


The design of these schools needs to be reconsidered. The fields and other interior areas, such as gyms and libraries, should be made available to the public when classes are not in session.


These are public buildings paid for with taxpayer dollars that sit idle for more than half the year. I understand the need to provide a safe environment when schools are in session. Yet, by innovative design those indoor and outdoor facilities can be made so that using them when school is not in session is possible.

If we continue to build facilities that are costing taxpayers millions for a shrinking pool of students without the needed innovation, we are doing a disservice. We can’t afford to build such specialized places with the idea that they belong to a District and not all County residents. This myopic vision of what a school should be is becoming less and less relevant especially with declining enrollment.


Every government wants to preserve its fiefdom. What they need to realize is that they all have the same customers. Does that mean the expense of maintaining some of those amenities should fall to the District alone? The answer is no! All governments need to share the cost. Yet I have seen inordinate expenses charged to use current facilities by other governments and groups. That can’t be either.


I charge the School Board and the County, along with appropriate municipalities, to begin thinking not in terms of “mine” but to think in terms of “ours.”


To see what new these facilities are currently planned to be go here




Board Member Defenthaler had proposed a proclamation celebrating LGBTQ+ month in October. This had been done in June by the City of Stuart. Like so many things when it comes to education, it is beginning to take on political overtones.

I don’t want to surprise anyone but there are Martin County students that are not heterosexuals. Those students that identify as different are more likely to be bullied and sadly feel that suicide is a viable alternative.


We have spent years trying to stop the scourge of racism. I think we may be closer with this generation of students than ever before. To hate someone just because they are of a different color or ethnic group means you had to be carefully taught as the Rogers & Hammerstein song goes. Now it is time to extend inclusivity for all students including LGBTQ+.


The question is how do we accomplish this? What is a proclamation supposed to do? A proclamation is simply a way to acknowledge that these students are valuable members of their schools and society. It is a measure of the worth of those children.


Apparently, some on the Board think that it should go further. Ms. Roberts put together a thorough presentation on the teaching of LGBT history. There are now several states that mandate such classes. What is Martin County trying to accomplish?

How much is a person’s sexuality key to their accomplishments as human beings. Pete Buttigieg ran for president this year. He was a mayor, naval officer, linguist, business consultant, scholar, deeply religious person and quite possibly could become a member of a Democrat administration. He also happens to be married to another man.


His accomplishments are not because of or despite his sexuality. Yet those accomplishments can be seen by a gay kid as an inspiration as he becomes an adult.


Should all students be required to take such a course? Should it be offered as an elective? This is something that requires more study, and I would suggest that the administration reach out to their LGBTQ+ students and find out what they believe their needs are.


I do think the Board, staff and all students would be served by diversity training. Most of us have biases. We may not think we do, but it is there. You hear it when people speak and sometimes you are the person speaking. Diversity training is different from sex education in any form. To confuse them shows why diversity training is needed.


A proclamation is a good first step. The other suggestions need further input and study. The Board needs to show all students and, in a broader sense, the entire community that race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation does not matter. Validation is important.


Ms. Robert’s and the staff reports can be found here



School Board Latest News From The October 4, 2020 Edition



The big day had arrived. The Board was picking Martin County’s first appointed superintendent.


In the preceding months, the Board had put into place with the guidance of the Florida School Board Association (FSBA) parameters for choosing that person. There were 45 applicants that were narrowed down to the final 4.


During the meeting, each Board Member explained his/her rationale for their choices. Board Member DiTerlizzi stated that Martin County had fallen in the rankings in his opinion. He thought there needed to be an agent of change hired. Two candidates stood out to him… John Millay and Peter Licata.

Tony Anderson felt that there was a tremendous weight on his shoulders. He mentioned that Licata said the plan should be to front load education in the early years to save the system on the back end. Licata cared about the wide-angle approach that even in “A” schools, there were students who were underperforming and should not be left out. Anderson loved Millay’s energy and enthusiasm and then mentioned his young age (a serious no no). He also had Millay and Licata as his 2 top picks.


Victoria Defenthaler was looking for a transformational leader. She also narrowed it down to Licata and Millay. Licata is a regional superintendent in Palm Beach County with 59 schools and 65,000 students. Millay retired as superintendent from a district in Kentucky with far fewer students and schools than Martin County has. Defenthaler said that Licata was a data person. He had started middle school academies and was a managerial leader. Millay, she believed, understood all departments. He had a fresh perspective and was forward-thinking and inclusive.

Li Roberts was looking at the academic and financial side. Millay had a plan and had done his research.


It was clear that three board members favored Millay (DiTerlizzi, Defenthaler and Roberts), and two preferred Licata (Anderson and Powers). Roberts asked if it made sense to throw it open again. None of the others wanted to go there.


Defenthaler made a motion to begin the process of negotiating a contract with Millay. It was seconded by DiTerlizzi. It passed 3-2 with Powers and Anderson dissenting.


I wished that both Powers and Anderson had voted in the affirmative when they saw no minds were going to change. It sends a clearer picture. Many candidates would never take a job where the Board is so split. Though I was more partial to Licata because of his Florida experience and the size of his subdistrict, I would have voted in the affirmative to give the decision unity.


One of the things that Millay did was assemble an “Entry Plan.” It was cited by several Board Members as a reason that they voted for him. I am enclosing it here


Good luck, Dr. Millay!




The School Board met to finalize Dr. John Millay’s contract to be the first appointed Superintendent in Martin County history.

The contract provides for a yearly salary of $170,000 plus other benefits. The term is from November 17, 2020 to June 30, 2024. As of July 1, 2021, and every fiscal year thereafter if Millay receives a satisfactory evaluation, then his base pay will increase by the same percentage as other administrators in the district. He will receive an additional 7.5% of compensation to be paid into a deferred compensation annuity along with being in the Florida Retirement System.


Millay can receive $2000 additional by maintaining his certifications. There is a $10,000 moving and temporary living allowance. He must live within the County. There are other provisions for reimbursement laid out in the contract which can be accessed here



Is this more than what the elected superintendent was receiving? The answer is yes. In Gaylord’s case the state sets the salary as an elected official. Dr. Millay is a contract employee, so it is negotiated. Will the students, taxpayers, and business owners get increased value? That is yet to be seen.


Dr. Millay begins on a per diem basis based on his contracted salary on October 26th. That should give him time to work with Gaylord and the rest of the administration to understand the District. One thing is for sure is that the Board now has total responsibility for what happens. The ultimate outcome will be in their hands.


School Board Latest News From The September 20, 2020 Edition



This was the final millage and budget meeting for the 20/21 year.


Tallahassee sets a required millage rate. That rate has been steadily reduced for the past decade. For 20/21, it has been reduced from 3.9 mils to 3.6990. The local rates will remain the same at 2.748 or a decrease in the overall rate by .2010 or 3.2%. Though the rate has gone down, do not expect the amount you pay to be less. Property values have increased so any savings will be absorbed by the that increase.


Overall, the budget has increased by about $18,235,986 for a total amount of $404,224,540.  While the 2019/20 General Operating Budget was $221,229,425, budget amendments throughout the year brought the total to $235,833,901 which is a bit more than this year’s same budget. Given the uncertainties of COVID-19, the budget overall is about as good as could be expected.  


The presentation can be found here


The entire detailed budget can be found here




During School Board Attorney Tony George’s report, he read into the record an email and a letter.

The first was an email from Tyson Waters who represents the Board negotiating an impact fee and concurrency agreement with Pineland Prairie. In May, a series of bullet points were sent to the District addressing concerns of Waters. Staff will be scheduling a meeting to go over the items. This has not come up at the Board since May.


Pineland Prairie has decided to resubmit its Master Site Plan Application to the County in the next few weeks. They plan on submitting a final site plan next year. I guess no rush there.


The Arts Foundation has submitted its proposal to Tallahassee for a $50,000 grant for design and planning of the old high school building. They were ranked 16 out of 58. If the stars, the moon, and the sun line up, maybe something will happen.


Jennifer DeShazo, the information officer, gave a presentation on attendance at the District. There are 16,628 students in K-12. 1049 students have left the District and 15,449 have enrolled. There are 10,756 students attending in person (65%) and 5872 doing do remotely (35%).


There is an opportunity for parents to request changes in status going forward. 209 students will go from remote to in person and 45 will go from in person to remote. Attendance for those registered is 95.2% for in person and 92.7% remotely.     

Since schools opened, 537 students have transitioned to quarantine/remote learning. Here is the breakdown: 113 elementary school students, 80 middle school students, and 344 high school students. 40 employees have transitioned to essential employee quarantine in the same period.


Ms. Roberts stated that parents looking for answers should call the District. She was surprised that parents would resort to Facebook groups to find out what is happening at the District. Sometimes it may be hard to get an answer, but parents can always write one of the School Board members or all of them with a question if need be.  Get the right information.


The presentation can be found: HERE


School Board Latest News From The September 6, 2020 Edition



The meeting focused on whether to fill vacant positions or not. When it came to most of those on the Organizational Chart, the Board was reluctant to do so. With a new Superintendent being hired, they wanted to hold off as much as possible.


Two things they did do were approve a third payroll specialist position and a Health Services Manager. I was surprised that with the Transportation management team now driving buses because of a shortage of drivers, the Board did not bother to first make sure that an all-out effort be made to find drivers. Secondly, considering that the two-senior people in that department are in the Drop Program, they would not hire a Transportation Manager as requested.


The Drop Program is a commitment a person makes to retire within a defined amount of time. Within the next couple of years, this Department will be without a senior team. It is not good succession planning for sure.




The Board began by discussing its top candidates and the reasons. Thomas Phelps, currently employed by Osceola County, received 5 votes. Peter Licata, from the Palm Beach County District, received 3 votes. John Millay, the former superintendent from Meade County Kentucky, received 2 votes. Michael Dunsmore, currently teaching at East Carolina University in North Carolina, and Lori Romano, formerly from Martin County now in Pasco County, received 1 vote each.


The Board continued to discuss which candidates to interview for over an hour. Would it only be the top vote getters, or would others be included? It was finally decided that the five would be invited. A question was raised as to whether the candidates with the fewest votes would choose to come to Martin County since they were not high up on the School Board Member’s list. I guess we will see.


The Board also went over the proposed contract language. The new organizational structure will have the Superintendent reporting to the Board. Currently, the elected Superintendent functions as a co-equal. I originally thought that the new person would not be in the District prior to December, but it looks like the hiring procedure will be wrapped up by the time Ms. Gaylord’s term ends in November.


School Board Latest News From The November , 2020 Edition

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