Politics, cell towers and hate speech: Why 3 more superintendents are out of a job

Conservatives on school board in Flagler County, Florida, vote not to renew the contract of Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt.

Sudden political shifts have forced another Florida superintendent out of a job and driven a state leader back into the central office.

Cathy Mittelstadt
Cathy Mittelstadt (@FlaglerSoup)

The school board in Flagler County, Florida, voted at its meeting last week not to renew the contract of Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt when it expires in June. Flagler Schools board president Cheryl Massaro, who was in the 3-2 minority in voting to retain Mittelstadt, called the move “100% political,” The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

Two of the three board members who voted against Mittelstadt, who was hired in 2020, were endorsed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the last election, according to the News Journal. DeSantis has been aggressive in remaking Florida’s education system by playing an active role in local, nonpartisan elections and appointing staunch conservatives to countless school board vacancies in districts across the state.

The Flagler decision also drew jeers from a large crowd of supporters who had shown up to urge the school board to extend Mittelstadt’s contract.

Controversy over how a 5G cellphone tower wound up on top of an elementary school has led to the resignation of Superintendent Catherine Cost from Wyandotte Public Schools in Michigan, The Detroit News reported. Parents are worried the yet-to-be-activated T-Mobile tower at the district’s Washington Elementary School threatens the health of students. But Cost wrote in a letter to the community last month that the radio frequency waves emitted would be “well, well below the legal limits, and will not cause harm to children,” according to The Detroit News. 

More from DA: 2 incoming superintendents make quick exits after school board clashes

In Pennsylvania, Superintendent Robert Schultz announced his resignation from the Lower Dauphin School District in the wake of allegations of “discrimination and inequity” at the system’s high school, CBS 21 reported. ” Discriminatory and hateful speech has no place at Lower Dauphin,” Schultz, who will leave in June, told the community in a letter about the allegations. “This includes speech targeting race, color, age, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin, marital status, pregnancy, handicap/disability, or political beliefs. We expect our students to be respectful toward all students.”

Stephanie Siddens
Stephanie Siddens (Ohio Department of Education)

Statewide political shifts

In Ohio, political pressures appear to have convinced interim state superintendent Stephanie Siddens to step down and return to district leadership as the deputy superintendent of Upper Arlington City Schools, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Republican lawmakers in Ohio are considering a bill that would take the curriculum oversight and long-term planning roles from the partially-elected state board of education and give them to the governor, according to the Dispatch.

In other central office leadership changes:

  • Edith Walker was chosen as the next superintendent of Ascension Public Schools in Louisiana. She has been the district’s chief instructional director since 2020.
  • Stephanie Anderson will become the superintendent of the Riverside Community School District in Iowa in July. She will replace Timothy Mitchell, who is retiring.
  • Jacob Konrath was hired as the next superintendent of Michigan’s Sheboygan Area School District in July, replacing the retiring Seth Harvatine.
  • Robert Sormani was named the lone finalist for superintendent of Manor ISD in Texas and will take over in May.
  • Timothy Doak has been selected as the next superintendent of the York School Department in Maine. Doak, currently the superintendent of both Eastern Aroostook RSU 39 and RSU 86/MSAD No. 20, takes the York post at the end of the school year.
  • Matthew Francis has been picked as the new superintendent of the Palmer Public School District in Massachusetts, MassLive.com reported.
  • Edwin M. Quezada will retire as superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools in New York in July.
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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