State threatens to slash Duval superintendent’s salary

Published on April 25, 2023 at 2:33 pm

Florida’s education commissioner is threatening to dock Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene for one year of pay over allegations of teacher misconduct.

In a letter to Greene and Duval School Board members Tuesday, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. chastised the district for what he called a failure to report incidents of misconduct within the state’s required 30-day reporting period.

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According to Diaz, the district on Friday reported 50 cases of teacher misconduct dating back to 2020 that it had not previously reported to the state. Jacksonville Today requested a copy of the log Tuesday.

“It is completely unacceptable that DCPS did not timely report these cases as required by Florida Statute,” Diaz wrote to Greene. “As superintendent, one of your many duties [under FL law] requires you to ensure that DCPS complies with the 30-day reporting period.”

The law Diaz references states that any superintendent who knowingly fails to report alleged misconduct to the department must forfeit their salary for one year.

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Greene said Tuesday that she was “surprised and angered” to learn that the district’s Office of Professional Standards had not sent the cases to the state.

“Our most recent state operational audit reviewed the effectiveness of board policies and district procedures in investigations and reporting of ethical conduct of instructional personnel and school administrators,” she said in a statement. “There were no audit findings on this topic in the January 2023 report. Therefore, until receiving the commissioner’s letter, I had no indication that we were out of compliance with any file.”

She said she agreed with Diaz that delays cannot be tolerated. “We will look into this matter further and take appropriate action following our review,” she said.

The Duval County School Board has called a special meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss hiring outside counsel to investigate the district’s role in alleged “systemic” problems at Douglas Anderson School of Arts, where students and parents have complained of years of misconduct by teachers.

In regards to Diaz’s letter, School Board Chair Kelly Coker stated Tuesday: “I am deeply troubled to learn the district has only recently sent upwards of 50 investigative cases involving educators. … I am confident this topic will be part of our discussion in the Special Board Meeting.”

Diaz told Greene he expected “an immediate response” to Tuesday’s letter.

Manny Diaz.jpg
Manny Diaz Jr. is the Florida Commissioner of Education. Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Continued state criticism

The letter Tuesday follows several other reprimands from the state.

Last week, the Florida Department of Education’s vice chancellor, Scott Strauss, accused the district of failing to report a 2021 incident of misconduct by Douglas Anderson music teacher Jeffrey Clayton through the proper channels.

Separately, a grand jury report last fall accused Duval Schools of failing to report more than 500 alleged student crimes to the state’s School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting system as well.

Clayton is accused of improperly touching and kissing a student. He is charged with lewd conduct involving a student.

Greene submitted records to the state Monday showing that the district reported the 2021 allegation on a different state platform because “the investigation did not conclude in a finding of sexual harassment.”

The incident was instead listed as “inappropriate physical contact with a student (of a sexual nature)” in a separate state system, a district log showed. Greene’s response to Strauss on Monday does not say when the 2021 incident was reported to the state.

At least two other Douglas Anderson teachers have been removed from teaching duties since Clayton’s arrest, including the head of the school’s film department on Tuesday.

Supporters say Greene is ‘scapegoated’

Supporters have expressed fear that Greene could be forced out or resign over the Douglas Anderson scandal.

“We want to make sure that our superintendent is not made to be the scapegoat for an issue that has gone on for so long,” Jonathan Blackburn of the Baptist Ministers Conference said during a rally to support Greene on Monday.

Supporters of Superintendent Diana Greene gathered at Duval County School Board headquarters on Monday evening, April 24, 2023. Claire Heddles, Jacksonville Today

At least six Florida superintendents (all among the state’s 29 districts with board-appointed superintendents) have resigned or been kicked out since the November 2022 election, when almost all school board candidates backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis won their races.

“We need an investigation because this is criminal — not to perpetuate a witch hunt so [Duval County School Board] can score political points,” former School Board Chair Elizabeth Andersen wrote Tuesday morning on Twitter.

Since 2006, Duval Schools’ office of professional standards opened nine separate investigations into Clayton related to misconduct allegations.

Eight of the investigations were related to misconduct with students, and the district’s investigations found that two were unsubstantiated. A ninth claim was related to Clayton’s not wearing a mask during COVID-19.

Greene’s contract

According to Greene’s employment contract — which the School Board extended last summer through 2026 — the district would be on the hook for up to 90 days’ severance pay if they voted to fire her.

Three months pay is about $75,000 — that’s unless the board were to fire the superintendent for misconduct, in which case severance pay is prohibited under Florida law.

The district did not immediately respond to a Jacksonville Today request for comment Tuesday.

In her letter Tuesday to Vice Chancellor Straus, Greene stated: “The district’s commitment to ensuring students remain safe remains our highest priority. We look forward to continuing to work with the Office of Safe Schools.”

author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Claire has been a reporter in Jacksonville since August of 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. Reach Claire with tips, ideas or comments at (904) 250-0926, and on Twitter at @ClaireHeddles.
author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Claire has been a reporter in Jacksonville since August of 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. Reach Claire with tips, ideas or comments at (904) 250-0926, and on Twitter at @ClaireHeddles.

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