Martin County School Board

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Martin County School Board


School Board Latest News From The April 11, 2021 Edition


It seems that the district was the last one in the state to come into line with the state mandate regarding teacher’s pay. Last year, the legislature gave $600 million to the districts to bring starting salaries to $47,500 and to boost veteran teacher pay.

Even with their proportional share of the fund being $3.4 million, the district will have to kick in another $860,000 for increases. The state once again is leaving a large unfunded mandate to the Martin County District this year and in subsequent years.


No form of local government is micromanaged as much as school districts. This could be the pre-cursor of what will happen to counties and cities. The state already dictates to districts how much millage to charge and recaptures part of it to distribute to other districts. Martin County’s taxpayers subsidize other school districts throughout the state. We are known as a donor county.


In this session, we have already seen more and more bills in the legislature that infringe on the home rule concept. Expect to see even more in the years ahead. We supposedly have home rule in our constitution. But that is only when the legislature does not enact laws that take it away.


The voters of Florida need to pass a constitutional amendment to stop this grab for power. To read more go here




Carter Morrison, the district’s CFO, presented the proposed budget for next year.


The district still needs to fine tune it and there are more meetings scheduled. As the next few months progress, the district will know more and more about what mandates the state will dictate including how much to spend on categorical lines such as textbooks.


Many things were discussed, and you can find most of the numbers in the attachments. Two things that were not in the presentations but were touched upon in the discussion were the internal auditor and the board attorney. The internal auditor position has been vacant for a couple of years now. The board uses the auditor to gather information for the board and to serve as a supposed check on the district staff.


The board will have Morrison come back with a proposal for a part time person to augment his staff during peak times instead of a separate position that reports to the board. It seems to be a better use of resources now that the superintendent directly reports to the board instead of being an independent elected official. The same goes for the board attorney.


Is there a reason to have a separate attorney now that the board and superintendent are integrated? It may be time to have a legal department headed up by a chief attorney that reports to the board much as the county attorney reports to the BOCC. Any additional legal expertise needed would be under the chief attorney.


The board needs to decide whether the attorney and the legal department should be outsourced, in house, or a combination. There are savings to be had regardless since moving forward the superintendent and the board will be in concert and do not need separate attorneys.


To see the budget presentation and handouts please go here




The meeting was all about the new facility’s leasing agreement.


Most of the discussion was consumed with Covid cancellation clauses. A legal agreement must be comprehensive and take in all the problems, no matter how remote, that could occur. How I sometimes long for the old days.

Apparently so does Tony Anderson. If Anderson had his way, a handshake (or today a fist bump) would be good enough. He longs for a time that even government could be more trusting. Unfortunately, those days have passed, and Anderson’s more common-sense approach is not how the board can protect the taxpayer in today’s litigious world.

For more than an hour, the board discussed and planned for Covid cancellations. After the changes that will be made and then sent to the board’s attorney for approval, we will be way past the worst of the virus’ havoc.


If you are an organized sports team, then this agreement will be welcomed. If you are just a couple of kids that want to use an empty taxpayer-owned field on the weekend or after school, then you are out of luck. Strict rental protocols are in place. Agreements must be signed, insurance certificates exchanged, and most importantly money paid.


If these rules were in effect when I was a kid, I would have never played sports on a field. Like Mr. Anderson, I long for those simpler times. I guess they are long gone and aren’t coming back even for the taxpayers who fund everything.


To see the draft agreement with pricing list, go here



School Board Latest News From The March 28, 2021 Edition




The board has approved an agreement with the Arts Council for them to inspect the high school building. The period will be for 60 days from April 1st through May 31st. It does not obligate either party to ameliorate any condition found on the premises.

I would be incredibly surprised if any obstacle found, including the site being a radioactive dump, would be serious enough to ward off the Arts Council. The goal seems to be locating here no matter what. Of course, this puts them far away from the Arts District and Downtown which makes little sense.


You can find the brief agreement here




One of the hardest decisions an employer makes is choosing health care insurance for its employees. The district is no exception.


The Insurance Committee of the board meets monthly for most of the year to find plans that are good for board employees but also affordable for the taxpayer. I need to disclose that I sit on this committee. There are no easy answers.


Three plans are offered. Most employees and retirees choose the HMO Plan. Then comes the PPO, which has the greatest employee payroll deduction, followed by the “HDHP” (High Deductible Health Plan) which had no cost to cover for employee-only coverage.  That coverage will now have a deduction of $26.49 per paycheck.


The board adopted to renew with Scenario 3 of the attachment. This will have a total cost to the board of $608,183 per year. As I said, difficult decisions.


To see all the rates and scenarios go here





During comments, Vice-Chair Anderson spoke about being in a park and overhearing two mothers speak about how public school is not as good as private schools or charters. Anderson then went into how great public schools are and there is a misperception of that fact by the public. I think there are misperceptions.

Most students attend public school. For the most part, they receive a good education. Some excel and take advantage of all that is offered. Those kids mostly come from parent-involved homes. They learn how to enroll in the gifted programs and classes. They make the best out of dual enrollment where they can earn an associate degree while still in high school at no cost.


Some kids do not excel in the larger environment of a public school. They do better in a smaller setting and with more rigorous learning standards. Some parents like to have religious or ethical principles taught along with the standard curriculum. Then there is the growing home-school movement where parents get to spend perhaps too much time with their kids.


It is all about perceptions and ultimately choice. Anderson, the rest of the board, and the entire public-school bureaucracy are not going to be able to be all things to all students and parents. As time goes on, I believe we will see more and more parents choose different options. Vouchers are one way to ensure that choice will be an option. Education Commissioner Corcoran and Governor DeSantis should just keep pushing that idea.    





School Board Latest News From The March 14, 2021 Edition




The board listened to a presentation detailing what each high school is doing for its “prom” this year. It is completely different than what most of us experienced at our senior proms.

The events at each high school are based on responses from what seemed like a distinct minority of seniors who bothered to respond to the survey. In this time of Covid, what can and cannot be done is testing what that special occasion will become. The event has morphed into more of a celebration on a class-wide basis than what many of us remember as an expensive and intimate formal date.


It seems food trucks will dominate, and movies will be shown under the stars. Not bad but hardly anything special. Things have changed and Covid has accelerated the pace of that change. To view the presentation made to the board go here




Nancy Turrell, the Arts Council leader, and Jeff Hardin from Straticon Construction gave a short presentation about what is next for the quest of having the old high school building become the new Arts Council.

The Council now needs to get into the building to see the physical condition and what needs to be remediated. One of the things that precipitated the district to buy the old Stuart News Building was the problems this building had with asbestos and other sick building problems and the projected cost to remediate it.


Mr. Hardin renovated the old Rice Hotel on Federal Highway which had gone through several renovations previously, the last being the old Rookies restaurant. While he may have saved the old building from demolition, any resemblance to an historic structure is purely coincidental.


The board gave a consensus for Chair Powers and Dr. Millay to proceed with negotiation. The space cannot exceed the master plan for Stuart Middle which leaves about 2 acres for the Council.

The main building itself served as the original Martin County High School from 1923-1964. If everything goes according to plan the Arts Council will be there in 2025. There are plans to rent to other nonprofits, to have performance space and, of course, expanded gallery space.


Most of the funding for renovations would come from grants. I just cannot help but wonder if trying to save an old building is serving the arts in Martin County, the taxpayers, and the organization well? It is almost a fixation on that goal rather than what might be beneficial to do something else.


Turrell was instrumental in establishing an Arts District downtown. Now she is moving the Arts Council further from the district. There is not a restaurant or store anywhere near the place. Instead of trying to integrate the arts with a vibrant urban scene, we are seeing the worst form of urban planning…almost a kind of sprawl.


There is no synergy with the stores, galleries, or restaurants of downtown and the Creek Arts District. How would you expect that district to flourish if you remove the patron organization?

Instead of people spending an evening of looking at a painting or show and then strolling over to the Gafford to have dinner, they will do one or the other but probably not both. If they do, then it will encompass driving from the one venue to another.


Perhaps the school district should look at obtaining grants to have the high school turned into housing for teachers and other employees instead of grants for paintings. We need to stop doing things with a 1960s perspective rather than the perspective of today and more importantly what is needed tomorrow.


To see the Arts Council presentation, go here




The staff gave an update on the ongoing projects at Stuart Middle, the two new elementary schools, the new boardroom being constructed at headquarters and other construction updates. You can see it here


The board also received an update regarding the health insurance contract for next year.


A final decision will have to be made later this month at the School Board Meeting. Health insurance is an extremely complicated subject but one that is especially important to those covered. Should this plan or that be subsidized and to what extent? Taxpayer dollars are used to keep the premiums manageable but still individual employees contribute a large amount to their plans.


You can find the presentation here



School Board Latest News From The February 28, 2021 Edition




CTE stands for career and technical education. CTE promotes and supports middle and high school programs that provide technical educations for students for 21st century non-college jobs. In the old days, it was known as vocational education.


Public schools throughout the country have tended to go away from more practical hands-on classes that were meant to train students to be auto mechanics and carpenters. However, there certainly continues to be a need for that type of education. I am not quite so sure whether a regular high school is the right place for this education today.


We do need practical nurses, cooks, auto mechanics and an entire range of vocations where the practitioners do not need to know much about Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or the Jacobines. That doesn’t mean those students shouldn’t have read the Reeve’s Tale or know that there was a French Revolution. There is such a thing as a basic education that should be universal for all students including those in vocational studies.


So, when a school official such as Dr. Millay states that he could add an additional nursing classroom at each of the high schools, I think we miss the point about what is needed. Mrs. Powers said that “we can’t be everything to everyone.” Sometimes in trying to do too much, we end up doing everything poorly.


Why in America are we tied to keeping kids in school until age 18? For those who want a technical career, they should be in a program by junior year where they can be learning subject matter for their intended occupation (e.g., science or math) in the morning and being in apprenticed jobs in the afternoon in the work force where their training can be subsidized by the district but with real world experience.


Schools cannot provide the same level of job training that doing the jobs can. Schools will never have the same up-to-date diagnostic computers to train an auto technician. The same goes for most occupations. Schools could serve as more of an employment agency for those students while still providing the academic underpinnings needed for their intended occupation.


As Mrs. Defenthaler added, there needs to be a focus on community partners. The worst thing education can do is try to teach these kids methods that are obsolete. What better place for practical and current knowledge than the private sector?


Mr. Anderson stated that Mrs Gaylord, the last elected superintendent, did a great job of bringing back the district from chaos. Anderson is right. Without the calmer and more professional atmosphere that Gaylord fostered, anything that the first appointed superintendent does would not be possible.


 John Millay has brought some great skills and educational background. His report you can find here  It shows how he is moving the district forward. As Defenthaler stated, there needs to be community partners and Millay has jumped at bringing more of them into the fold.




In 2021, the taxable value of real estate for the district will be about $26 billion. Over the next 5 years with current trends, the value will rise to almost $30 billion. In year 2007/2008, the school board had $43,886,882 in tax collections. Today the amount is $36,484,159 for capital outlays.

Close up of Various currency notes and coins from different countries

A couple of things happened to make collections less. One was the Great Recession of 2008 which crashed values. The second was when the state reduced the millage allowed for capital improvements from 2% to 1.5%.


In effect, they gave the taxpayers a reduction which they took full credit for and it came directly out of the school board budget. That is about a $175 million loss over more than a decade. This is a reason why some outlays for roofs, chillers and other capital items could not be done. Remember, you can only use capital money for capital repairs and operational income for operations.


I am not going to go through every page of the budget presentation that was shown. It is lengthy and it is attached. A couple things stand out. One is the cost to bond for capital improvements such as the two new elementary schools is cheaper than what was anticipated when the sales tax was passed. The bonds will be paid off at the end of the special sales tax period in 2025.


The second is that they are expanding programs in career and technical education. This will allow more kids to come out of high school with certification that they are ready to enter the work force. It looks like training in welding, nursing, and HVAC will be expanded.


The board wants to see data to make sure the expenditures are cost effective. As Ms. Defenthaler said, she wants to see the ROI for this work. The next budget workshop will flesh out more details.


The entire presentation can be found here




School Board Latest News From The February 14, 2021 Edition


In the January 24th Newsletter, I reported on a proposed pre-k training program for students to obtain jobs at Jensen Beach High. School Board Chair Marcia Powers wrote a letter to me regarding the piece:


Hello Tom –


I want to clarify your synopsis of the school board’s discussion of building two Pre-K classrooms at Jensen Beach High School.


To clarify, I do not think all Pre-K teachers should have a college degree. However, I do believe that they are woefully underpaid. Until we, as a school district and a state, value these teachers and pay them appropriately, it will be hard to attract potential employees and students to this field. Under our current VPK system, requiring teachers to have college degrees would make the program cost prohibitive to families. Currently, VPK in Florida is provided mainly by private providers with public schools accounting for only 20% of the available seats. The VPK system in Florida would not be successful without providers like Gertrude Walden Child Care Center and many others, but they also need the ability to pay their employees a wage that reflects their value to our community.


My objection to the two vacant classrooms being utilized for Pre-K, stems from the fact that MCHS and SFHS are currently over capacity. JBHS will become an open school choice high school next year to hopefully alleviate more overcrowding at the other two high schools. Because a new high school will cost approximately $100 million to build, I think it is most responsible to leave any currently vacant classrooms at JBHS for high school students.


Thank you for reporting on the school board meetings.


Best regards,
Marsha Powers, Chair
Martin County School Board


And my response:


I did not communicate your position as well as I thought. 


You did so in your email beautifully. 


In general, we should as a society nationally be providing for not only pre-k care but day care in general for every child. I believe through primarily the private sector using adequate tax credits and vouchers this can be accomplished. As you know I am on the board of Gertrude Walden and strongly believe that every teacher and day care worker should be qualified but not necessarily with a college degree.


With proper funding those that work in those centers could be paid more than now. We as a nation just need to decide that this is the direction we must go.


Thelma Washington who is the executive director of Gertrude Walden also wrote regarding pre-k and childcare:




Thank you, concerning the Early Childhood Program at Jensen Beach High School.


I agree with your comments as well as Marsha Powers.  At Gertrude Walden Child Care Center, the quality of instruction is high and teachers with the assistance of financial tuition from the TEACH program are able to obtain their AS degree and higher. 


I would be happy to partner with Jensen Beach High School as a work experience and training sight. I presently accept interns from the Work Force Solutions program and that has worked out well.  I’m sure most providers in Martin County would be happy to do the same.  For your further information, Dunbar, Hobe Sound Early Learning, Apple Tree and Gertrude Walden are all accredited as well. 


WE all have teachers with Associate Degrees.

Those who are early learning professionals, let us know about your thoughts, experiences, and ideas.




This was a workshop that was very substantive yet for the lay person extremely boring.


The first thing was the Clifton Strengths Assessments. It is an hour-long assessment identifying your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It has 4 Domains and 34 Themes. At the end of it, you are supposed to know yourself better.


In large work settings, I guess it is important to be aware of your colleagues’ work behaviors to be able to partner with them more effectively. You understand their motivation and how they think about things and process information. You can then compare their work styles against your own and have greater understanding of how to develop more collaborative and successful work relationships.


You can find the superintendent’s and school board’s assessments here


Ms. Roberts put together a book of operating guidelines for the board. It outlines policies and procedures. You can find it here


Dr. White gave a presentation on the new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking- B.E.S.T. Standards. The English Language Arts Standards will be implemented in 2021/22 year and the math in 2022/23 school year. It is strictly a Florida Dept. of Education product and it supposedly goes back to basics.


To see the presentation, go here


The Gerhing Group, the district’s health insurance consultant, presented its 6-month findings. So far this year, Florida Blue has paid 104% in claims. That means it has lost money. Not only by paying 4% more in claims than it collected but much more when you figure in the 20% in administrative costs assigned.


The large claims, those over $150,000, are 266% higher. The blended increase for the plans would be 13.8%. This is only for half the year but that doesn’t mean the board can wait six months to decide on any changes. Those will be done at the next few meetings.


You can read the entire presentation here


For more information on becoming a newsletter sponsor, please contact Chriss David at or 561-358-1119. She will explain how you or your business will be featured in the newsletter and on our websites.


School Board Latest News From The January 24, 2021 Edition




There was not much of substance at this meeting.


Jensen Beach High is expected to have less than 90% of capacity next year. It will be a school of choice. In other words, if a student wants to go there regardless of where the student is zoned, the student will be able to do so. You can read the brief one-page memo here

Board member Roberts did an excellent breakdown of elementary school population by race and ethnic group. Martin County’s school age population is changing. It is no longer only white and Black. There is a large and growing number of students from Latin America. At Warfield, nearly 90% of students are of Latin American origin and 65% are classified as an English Language Learner. To see the population tables for every elementary school, go here


Finance Director Carter Morrison presented the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) for the year ending June 30, 2020. You can find it here

Finally, there is the Superintendent’s update here

I hope there is something more going on behind the scenes.




After a dozen years, the Interlocal Agreement for using school board fields and gymnasiums is becoming serious.


As a taxpayer, I have been confused for years as to why school fields, gymnasiums and auditoriums are locked up for half the year. It is as if we the people that pay for these facilities to be built are somehow barbarians that need to be kept out by locked gates.

Because of our obsessive fear for safety and impregnability of school property, we keep great facilities away from the community. Schools should be looked at as community centers. Perhaps this may be the first steps for this to occur again.


Both the BOCC and school board want this to happen, but the devil is in the details. There are expenses that are associated with use. It appears what has been going on for years is that the district charges hundreds of dollars for the use of a field. This prevents many kids from enjoying activities of just hanging around in a relatively safe environment after school and on weekends.


There needs to be a place for adults and kids to gather to play a pickup game of basketball or soccer. While the two governmental giants battle to allocate the cost of using these facilities (and I mean the true cost), we should not lose site of the reason these fields were built. The board and county will discuss this at their next joint meeting.


The presentation and points of discussion can be found  here


          PRE-K TEACHERS


Jensen Beach High School wants to begin a certificate program for students who want to become pre-kindergarten teachers. There is a real shortage of qualified people to do this. Yet there was some pushback on the proposal.


In order to convert two classrooms for use in the pre-school certification program at Jensen Beach, it would cost roughly $650,000. You can’t learn to be a pre-school teacher without the pre-school kids which explains the conversion of the classrooms. There is a shortage of classrooms already in the high schools and no intention of building anymore.


Board Member Li Roberts asked if it were possible to have two portables instead in the rear of the building where the classroom conversion was going to be made. Her reasoning is that portables do not count toward your available classrooms and this way the young kids are not in the high school itself. There also would be a drop off and pick-up loop for the kids.


Chair Powers questioned whether a program is necessary. The pay of those that receive the certificate will be about $10 an hour which is less than many fast-food employees. As the head of the Early Learning Coalition, she believes that pre-k teachers should have at least a bachelor’s degree. My question is would credentialing mean better pay and would the quality of the instruction be better?


Obviously, the more education one has in any subject, the better your understanding of the subject matter. Will that make you a better teacher for young children? Most pre-k classrooms are not in the public schools. They vary from tony private day care to places like Gertrude Walden in East Stuart. I don’t know whether places like Walden could possibly stay open if their staff was paid comparable to a public-school teacher with a bachelor’s degree.


The people who work in a place like Gertrude Walden are mostly not college graduates. Yet the kids receive more than adequate instruction and are ready for kindergarten. We need to be careful that we do not make it more difficult for these kids and their teachers who may not qualify if educational standards are raised. Women make up nearly all the staff and are raising their own families with this job.


Should Martin County spend all that money on one more certificate program? I believe the answer is no. If the district believes there needs to be such a program, then have classroom instruction at Jensen Beach and then the certificate students can go to existing pre-k classes for hands on training. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.



The preliminary plans for the new athletic complex at Southfork was presented to the board. Much of the detail planning still needs to be done. Nothing was decided and again it seems that they are building something to be used for the limited time that school is in session. This would be the time to make sure it is designed to meet state mandates and be used by the public.


The presentation can be found here



For more information on becoming a newsletter sponsor, please contact Chriss David at or 561-358-1119. She will explain how you or your business will be featured in the newsletter and on our websites.



School Board Latest News From The January 10, 2021 Edition




Karen Resciniti was the only public speaker. Resciniti is the head of the union but she was only speaking for herself as a teacher. About a third of her 180 students are attending remotely. This was causing her difficulties in keeping everything straight. She claimed it was unsustainable.


In Martin County, remote learning was never meant to be the new way of attending class. Many teachers do not have the ability to work with individual students both in the classroom and at home. I like the idea that the lessons are streamed, and I hope it continues. It should only be for a kid that is home sick so he can follow along and not lose instruction time.


To ask teachers to continuously work with home bound students and those in the classroom at the same time can be stressful for the teacher and leave the students without everything they need. Since this set up will be with the district for the rest of the year, Dr. Millay should see whether it can be improved. If next year we are still prisoners to Covid, then those students who are at home should explore Florida Virtual or one of the other means to continue in-home education.


The board was also being asked whether to suspend a custodian without pay because she was not performing her job. Apparently, she sustained an injury while on the job at JD Parker and now is unable to bend down or lift anything. She was cleared for full duty by the doctor. There will be a termination hearing in January.


I don’t want to get into the merits of the case. I don’t even want to discuss whether she should or should not receive pay pending the termination hearing. (The board did suspend with pay) What I do want to know is why the board has to be involved in what would be a trivial matter in the private sector.


I was told that under statute they must be involved. I can’t believe that in Palm Beach their board becomes involved in whether low or mid-level employees should be terminated or suspended. According to the district’s website, Palm Beach has 22,600 employees. If their board were as involved as Martin’s is, they would do nothing more than act as a big HR department. Perhaps there is a better and more professional way of handling these disputes.


For more information on becoming a newsletter sponsor, please contact Chriss David at or 561-358-1119. She will explain how you or your business will be featured in the newsletter and on our websites.



School Board Latest News From The December 13, 2020 Edition




By Dr. John Millay

Greetings Martin County students, employees, families, and members of the community,


It is my honor and pleasure to officially introduce myself to the Martin County School District community. I feel very privileged, excited, and humbled for the opportunity to serve as your Superintendent of Schools.  The Martin County School District’s reputation for excellence is a testament to your commitment to the well-being and academic success of children.  The numerous opportunities offered to students both inside and outside of classrooms are nothing short of remarkable, and I am committed to building upon the established framework to ensure all students continue to be educated for success, achieve their highest personal potential and explore their interests in a safe, nurturing learning environment.  As a father of three (Allie, Maggie, and Jake), all educated in public schools, I fully understand the dreams and aspirations that all parents have for their children to have the very best possible education that also meets their unique needs and differences. 


Prior to my arrival in Martin County, I completed a very successful, 27-year career in Kentucky public education (serving the last 14 years as a high-performing school superintendent).  I remain passionate about student achievement, equity and access, the professional growth and success of faculty and staff, and empowering families and the community to become full partners in the educational experience offered in our schools. In addition to its reputation for academic, instructional, and financial excellence, the level of community support and engagement are what drew me to the Martin County School District.  As I participated in the interview process, I was impressed by the sense of pride employees and community members shared for the District and public education.  As I have traveled throughout beautiful Martin County over the last few weeks, I have met countless students, faculty, staff and residents who have been incredibly welcoming and excited to see what lies ahead for our school system. 


I look forward to continuing to meet and learn from each member of our community as we celebrate success and develop new goals for the future together. It has been said that no effective learning can occur without a relationship. I believe that relationships are central to learning, effective communication, cultivating a positive culture and developing an understanding of our common needs. As we are all members of the Martin County School District family, it is my hope that we will consistently work toward building bridges that will unite us.


In reviewing the District’s mission and vision statements, three inspirational words stood out to me as guiding principles for our work – All, Dynamic and Excellence. 


“All” literally means all – it means every Martin County student will be equipped to reach their highest personal potential, including our most vulnerable populations.


“Dynamic” means bringing a positive attitude, energy, fresh ideas and an adaptable spirit to our work each day.  It takes a lot of effort, a willingness to embrace change and innovative thinking to move a school district forward.  I will need everyone’s help.


“Excellence” is what we will strive for, knowing that success has no finish line. I know each of our teachers, administrators and employees truly wants to be the very best they can be. 

While we continue to navigate uncertain circumstances, I am confident we will conquer the challenges before us to move forward in becoming Florida’s premier school district and one of the highest-performing in the nation.


As I shared before, I am humbled and honored to have been given the opportunity to serve as your Superintendent of Schools.  My door is always open – please never hesitate to submit any questions, concerns, comments, or accolades you have about our schools or school district to me.  I can be reached at (772) 219-1200 ext. 30222 or If you have a few minutes over the next few weeks, I would greatly appreciate hearing all of the initial ideas, input, feedback and suggestions you may have.  A survey created for this purpose is available here –

 you may remain anonymous when submitting your responses if this option is the most comfortable for you.   


It is an exciting time for all of us in the Martin County School District and I am genuinely looking forward to building relationships and achieving the vision and mission of our school district. 





Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran issued a new order stating that schools will have in person classes no matter what for the rest of the year.

detroit Free Press

The remote learning piece can continue with a new caveat. If an online student is struggling, then he should resume in-person classes unless the parents refuse. In my opinion, the state is not going to allow districts to go past this year in the offering of simultaneous online classes. There are other more effective ways for kids to continue with virtual learning, such as Florida Virtual.


Dr. Tracey Miller, Chief Academic Officer, gave a report on going forward that encompassed this and much more. The statewide assessment tests will be given, and the students must come into the schools to take them. Last year when these plans were being formulated, we did not have the data we have today. I feared and wrote that schools could be a hot bead of infection. I was wrong as were so many others.


Schools have proven to be a relatively safe environment as compared to bars and restaurants. Those are now open and so should schools be. The district will be applying for funds to hire a data scientist to help formulate plans going forward. Another good idea.


The district projects to have 18,942.4 students this school year. It has 18,140.62 students or a loss of 783.78. That means there is a decrease in funding of $8,192 per student for a total of $6.42 million. The governor’s order spares us all but $170,000 loss this year. The state will not continue to subsidize the district by millions of dollars so cuts may be in the offing for next year.

Nearly ¾ of the student body is in school while the rest is still virtual. The average grade for remote students is C while for those in person it is B. That will affect our school ratings. New Superintendent Millay wants the students back in the classroom. He stated that the dual means of instruction is stressful to teachers. It is not as if teachers are not interacting with online students.


Li Roberts said that the sequential subjects such as math are harder online. That makes sense since unlike history you need to master one step before going to another. The entire presentation including a more in depth look at the statistics can be found here



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 April 25, 2021 Edition

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