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Alachua County School Board chair is not swayed by the Education Commissioner’s decision to withhold salaries

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 11:25 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Florida’s top education leader is not backing down in the fight against the Alachua County School District mask mandate. This comes just a few days after a Leon County Circuit Court Judge ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on school districts mandates is an overreach of power.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued another threat to Alachua County School Board members: drop your mask policy or lose your salary.

“I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, governor or Richard Corcoran, we are so sorry. Don’t take our salary.’ Take it,” said Chair of the board, Dr. Leanetta McNealy.

RELATED STORY: Florida education commissioner announces ACPS salaries will still be withheld due to mask mandates

Corcoran announced that school board members’ salaries in Alachua and Broward counties are being withheld because of direction from the State Board of Education. He said in a statement, “We’re going to fight to protect parent’s rights to make health care decisions for their children. They know what is best for their children.”

McNealy said they are not scared of these threats.

“We voted unanimously on August the 3rd as well as August the 17th. We are steadfast in our beliefs. I know that it is not about the money. It is about the safety and well-being of our students and our employees. That is where I stand, and I will not back up on that,” explained McNealy.

Newly- named school board member Mildred Russell who did not vote on the ban, tells TV20 she has not heard whether her salary is being withheld.

RELATED STORY: Alachua County School Board pleased with judge’s ruling blocking Gov. DeSantis’ order

According to McNealy, other threats have included removing members from the board, but she is open to meeting with state leaders.

“I’m proud to say that I stand ready to speak directly to the state Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, or the governor. I would love to have those opportunities,” said McNealy.

Jared Ochs, the Director of Communications and External Affairs for the Florida Department of Education, sent TV20 the following statement:

“Unlike several school districts in this state, our Department plans on continuing to follow the rule of law until such time as the Court issues its ruling, and subsequent to that ruling, we plan on immediately appealing this decision to the First DCA, from which we will seek to stay the ruling. We actually began withholding these funds last Thursday, based on the already lawfully executed orders of the State Board of Education. Of course, it’s ironic being asked such a question by the media when similar questions have seldom been directed to the several school districts that are operating in violation of written law and preventing children from a free and public education.”

One day after they began withholding funding, a Leon County Circuit Court Judge ruled against the governor. That decision is being appealed to the First District Court of Appeal.

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