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Ziffer, Pons Continue Clash Over Community School; Ziffer Says He Won't Meet With Pons Alone

Alan Levine

A meeting on a proposed community school in Southern Tallahassee was abruptly canceled Thursday. It's the latest in the fight between school superintendent Jackie Pons and City commissioner Gil Ziffer over the plan.

Pons and Ziffer had agreed to meet in Pons’ office at the school district. But when Pons learned reporters would be present, he canceled. Ziffer has pushed for a school with medical and social services to be located at an unused school site on Orange Avenue. Pons argues the program has to be financially sustainable, and the two men at least agree on that point.  But the called off meeting is only the latest in a line of slights, and now Ziffer says he won’t meet with Pons alone.

“As far as I am concerned, anytime we meet from this point forward, I’m going to want to have public availability as well as the opportunity to have media present," Ziffer said. "This is important for our entire community but specifically for a lot of folks who would be immediately impacted. I think they should know what we’re trying to do.”

Ziffer's plan for a so-called "community school" is modeled after Orlando's Evans High School, which has wraparound services for students and families in the area.  The tone between Ziffer and Pons has grown increasingly heated. The two men traded warring editorials recently in the Tallahassee Democrat. Ziffer has accused the superintendent of stonewalling on the project.

"I’m a little frustrated. We’ve been working and having these discussions for 8-9 months. There’s a lot of us who just want to know what else does the superintendent need from us to move forward had have this community school at Wesson.”

The back-and-forth comes as Pons faces a tough re-election fight. He’s drawn several challengers, including city commissioner and former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox and former Leon High School Principal Rocky Hanna. The three men are close to each other in the money race.