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Cheryl Tristam Leaves Flagler Youth Orchestra After Repeated Attacks

Tristam, center, with Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra conductor Scott Gregg (right) and Direction of Education Tony Kamnikar. ⓒ Flagler Youth Orchestra

BUNNELL – Cheryl Tristam, the longtime director of the Flagler Youth Orchestra, has stepped down from her role following an intense round of scrutiny from members of the Flagler School Board and their supporters. The Board members in recent meetings have pressed for transparency with the FYO’s financials from the district, and have suggested possible impropriety by Tristam. The now-former director firmly denies these characterizations, and the program which accommodates hundreds of students is now without a leader.

All parties involved agree that a massive error was made regarding the FYO’s financials. The program, which has operated for 18 years under Tristam’s leadership, has not been audited by the district 2005. It was written into district policy at the program’s inception that there should be annual audits of it, but Tristam said that she was not instructed by then-Superintendent Bill Delbrugge on any steps she herself should take to do so. The district itself let the task slip through the cracks.


Ever since this became publicly known in early June, Tristam has seen her and the FYO become the subject of speculation and accusations that she was operating it illegally, that she was engaged in illegal money transfers with her husband Pierre’s website FlaglerLive, and that she was using the FYO to enrich herself. Tristam has been forthcoming with evidence to the contrary, showing that while mistakes were made at the district level, most accusations of wrongdoing appear to be unfounded.

During her time with the FYO, Tristam operated it as an independent contractor making $30,000 in compensation (less at one point), an arrangement comparable to that of a high school football coach. Some interpreted this as her running an unregistered nonprofit, when in reality the FYO, being a function of the school district, is under no legal requirement to register with the state.

Tristam, who has long maintained that she’d continue to direct the FYO as long as she was physically able, announced in a column on FlaglerLive Monday that she’d be ending her long tenure. She minced no words in why she made the decision, saying: “the conduct of some of our school board members toward me personally and toward the program has been reprehensible and inexcusable. It leaves me no choice.”

It’s a fair assumption that Tristam’s ire is chiefly toward Will Furry, the member who most directly called into question the legitimacy of the FYO last month. Furry’s line of questioning was effective in highlighting the district financial department’s blunders, but continued past that line into its examination of Tristam herself.

As determined as Furry has been on the issue, Tristam was defended just as passionately by Board member Colleen Conklin, a longtime supporter of the FYO herself. Conklin has been sharply critical of recent negative characterizations against Tristam, defending her and the organization throughout the process.

It is unclear at this time what the future of the Flagler Youth Orchestra will be; to direct such a program is a specialized skill that certainly won’t be overly abundant in a community like Flagler County. A hypothetical successor would also have to decide if the School Board and district create a hospitable environment for leadership, following multiple high-profile firings and resignations in recent months.

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.



  1. TR

    July 4, 2023 at 10:39 pm

    Well I’ll comment here what I comment on Flagler Live, but was silenced by not having my comment publicly posted. I guess the truth hurts. Oh wait Cheryl’s husband runs FL, so I guess if you’re not in agreement of what they want you to type or pat them on the backs all the time, your comments will not be posted for public viewing. I didn’t violate their TOS in anyway shape or form, her husband is just a coward being he doesn’t like hearing the truth.
    I posted that Cheryl quit because it was tough for her. I guess the lesson she will teach the students is that when the things get tough, just quit. Nice going. I also posted that as a business owner myself that when I first started, if I wasn’t sure about how something was done I would ask someone who did know. Cheryl said (in the other article) she was never taught how things should be done. So instead of finding out the right way she just kept doing it the wrong way and now wants to blame someone else. A good leader takes the blame for things that are good and bad. It’s their responsibility of knowing how things are done right especially after 18 yrs. Unfortunately the kids are the ones that will suffer, and the community might as well if the program doesn’t continue.
    Let me say one more thing. Just in my thinking, I wouldn’t be surprised that if and when the audit is complete they find that Cheryl did something illegal with some of the funding and that’s why she’s passing blame to cover her butt.
    Sorry to the kids and community, and Good Luck to Cheryl and her coward husband Pierre.

    • The dude

      July 5, 2023 at 4:47 pm

      So you came over here to whine?

      Your moronic comment was published over a FL BTW, but sadly you’re clearly too cowardly, or lack the mental fortitude to go back and defend it.

      Ms. Cheryl isn’t “quitting”, she’s moving on to better opportunities for herself and her family.

      That it’s detrimental to the children of Flagler County, well this blame can be laid directly at the feet of yourself and the MAGA idiots you elected. Not someone who’s tried to make the best of a shitty situation for 18 years before moving on to better opportunities.

      Quite frankly I’m surprised a MAGAt would take issue with someone looking out for number one before all others. But I guess you gotta find something to bitch, whine, and complain about… It’s the MAGA way. So even there, Ms. Cheryl has done you one last small service, giving you one more thing to yell at the sky about.

      • TR

        July 5, 2023 at 9:59 pm

        Dude that’s rich coming from someone who never comments on this site. Fishing are we?But your wrong, it was not published over there, I just looked again FYI. (but now you’ll go tell your beloved left leader about this and it might get published, but I don’t care) You can try and twist this all you want but anyone who steps away is quitting regardless for what reason. And as for me electing idiots. I didn’t vote for anyone that you may think I did. I’m not a Maga supporter, nor a left liberal like you. I’m an independent with my own agendas. You call it whining, bitching, or complaining? I call it MY OPINION and freedom of speech.
        Have a nice night.

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