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School District seats new board members

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Three just-elected Hernando County School Board members were given their oaths of office during the School Board’s organizational meeting on November 22. The swearing-in occurred minutes before members of the public commented about some board members’ conduct just before the election on Nov. 8.

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Circuit Court Judge Don Barbee administered the oath of office to incoming School Board members Mark Johnson and Shannon Rodriguez. Returning board member, Susan Duval was sworn into office by Circuit Court Judge Kristie Healis. Board members Gus Guadagnino and Linda Prescott round out the board’s membership.

The panel also unanimously chose Gus Guadagnino to serve as board chairman. Guadagnino will be serving his second consecutive term as board chairman. Duval was unanimously voted to serve as the body’s vice chair.

Just after the new board members were seated, some members of the community chastised the panel over the partisan nature of the Nov. 8 election.
The comments stemmed from a video that was uploaded to social media by State Senator Elect Blaise Ingoglia allegedly showing then school board vice chair Linda Prescott, removing signs critical of fellow school board member and candidate for re-election Susan Duval. Comments from citizens both condemned and praised Prescott for removing the signs. Some directed comments at the newly elected board members and their association with the local Republican party.

“The Merriam Webster (dictionary) definition of nonpartisan is free from party affiliation,” Lori Sowers told the board. “The election’s over, this board is to be a nonpartisan board, and new board members, please respect (that) your loyalty is to students and taxpayers.”
Later, Kimberly Mahoney asked the new members to keep the board moving forward.

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“I would really like to see it moving in the right direction and that we all come together and work together because the main priority in this County is our children and our teachers,” Mahoney said. “I look forward to see what you can bring.”

One citizen was excited for returning Board member Mark Johnson to assist in re-establishing the Urban Gentlemen’s Club in area schools. Johnson stated that he has some fundraisers planned and will be in touch with area principals. Addressing criticism of his outspoken position against CRT in the school system during citizen comments, he stated, “I have never said that it is offered as curriculum. It was offered as professional development in a program called Equity in Education in the 2021 school year in two different sessions. We have the training manual, we have the log in sheets with 100 employees attended and that was before it got codified under HB7, the Individual Freedom Act, and it stopped in this district. I never said it was offered as curriculum and I still oppose it. I oppose any kind of indoctrination of students in any programs. They should be taught how to think, not what to think.”

Vice chairwoman Susan Duval congratulated and thanked all of the schools for rescheduling Veterans Day celebrations. She also recognized Angela Sheppard for receiving the top school-related employee award for the District.

Board member Linda Prescott said that she excited that the school district will be starting a program to recognize a veteran of the month.
In other action, the Board voted 4-1 to maintain the School Board calendar going forward.

To view the calendar visit School Board Calendar | March 2023 (hernandoschools.org)

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