The news yesterday that School Board member Sally Hunt was somewhere in the process of considering resignation threw an already unstable Flagler School Board into potentially greater disarray. The initial report, made known by a timely and thorough investigation from FlaglerLive, put forth the possibility that one of the county’s most consequential elected bodies could be on the verge of a dramatic sea change.
Unseating an Incumbent
Hunt was elected to office in August, unseating incumbent Jill Woolbright in a narrow two-way race. Her victory positioned herself as a new swing vote on the Board, with members Christy Chong and Will Furry on the right and Colleen Conklin and Cheryl Massaro on the left. It’s a loose dynamic, being that Board members are nonpartisan and don’t vote in lockstep on every issue. But in an era where political issues are increasingly embedded in local school districts, constituents are scrutinizing the political leanings of their School Board members more than ever before.
Hunt’s victory was surprising in part because she beat a DeSantis-endorsed incumbent; of all the School Board candidates in the state who were endorsed by DeSantis only a small handful of them lost. Woolbright was among them. Chong and Furry also held the Governor’s approval, and won each of their races.
According to the initial report from FlaglerLive, Hunt was as close to resigning as putting a letter in a mailbox, before later thinking twice. It signifies that the School Board came shockingly close to moving toward a drastically different ideological makeup, and still may. In the event Hunt were to resign, it would be incumbent upon Governor DeSantis to appoint a successor. Given the stances the Governor has taken in school districts across the state, it seems significantly likely that the appointee would be Woolbright, placing her back on the Board after an election defeat.
At the center of the intrigue with Hunt is Paul Peacock, a longtime administrator who is taking action following his demotion last year. Peacock served as the Chief Operations Officer for the district, a position closely tied to the superintendent. Following a questionable agreement with unions in the school district, Peacock was demoted from COO to principal of Wadsworth Elementary School. Cathy Mittelstadt, the current superintendent, made the decision that Peacock would not receive a stipend of $7,500 that’s tied to the COO position. He has since filed a grievance and is moving toward suing for $200,000 in damages from the district.
An Uncertain Future
Hunt now sees herself as the swing vote on the School Board in the matter of renewing Superintendent Mittelstadt’s contract, with members Conklin and Massaro leaning toward renewing, and Furry and Chong leaning against. Ever since it became clear that Mittelstadt’s fate likely rested in Hunt’s hands, the first-term Board member has faced a barrage of lobbying, some of it forceful, from members of the community. It’s not hard to envision that the stresses of it may have taken a toll.
As of Monday, Hunt still hasn’t announced a final decision, and so the balance of the School Board is still in question. She has been contacted for comment by AskFlagler but has yet to respond. Even if Hunt were to resign, the possibility of DeSantis appointing Woolbright feels likely but isn’t guaranteed. Until Hunt shares her call, the future of the county’s most politically charged elected body remains wildly uncertain.