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Leon Officials: Nepotism Policy Needed Amid Inquiry Into Former Gilchrist Principal's Relationships

two hands holding
Photo by Min An

The Leon County School District is grappling with how to address relationships between employees. The recent administrative changes at Gilchrist Elementary school coupled with the removal of its principal has brought the issue to light. 

This week, Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced Deerlake principal and former district administrator Scotty Crowe would be taking over as principal of Gilchrist Elementary School.  Steve Mills, the assistant principal at Godby High School, got a promotion to take over at Deerlake Middle. Superintendent Rocky Hanna says the school is in good hands. Mills thanked Hanna for the job and also praised Crowe:

"Once you’re part of the Deerlake family you’re always part of the Deerlake family. It’s hard to leave your family and I know Scotty is feeling it right now but he’s going to go to Gilchirst and help that community heal," Mills said.

Both Gilchrist Elementary and Deerlake Middle are in Dee Dee Rasmussen’s district. She commended Hanna for the leadership changes.

“I want to commend you for your handling of a difficult situation. I think you’ve made a great choice in both instances and I’m very hopeful.”

That reference to a “difficult situation” coupled with the administrative shakeup are due to Gilchrist’s now former principal David Solz being placed on administrative leave with pay, after he self-reported a relationship with one of his teachers. But also in play is the rumor mill, which has been churning for about a week now. The district is conducting an investigation into Solz’s actions—trying to sort out fact from fiction. In the meantime the Leon County School Board is trying to update its policies, unveiling several drafts of a nepotism and fraternization policy Tuesday. 

“My husband, the attorney who wordsmiths everything to death and drives me crazy, he looks over at me and is like, ‘what’s the problem here? You can’t have a relationship with a subordinate. Bam. That’s all there is too it," said Chairwoman Alva Swafford Striplin.

This isn't the first time the conflict has emerged.  While principal at Leon High School, Superintendent  Rocky Hanna had a relationship with a teacher. 

“We are all human and we all make mistakes," Hanna said. "But when it’s clearly defined—it’s like a speed limit...if you know the speed limit is 30 miles an hour and there’s a fine, you’re much more likely to go 30 miles an hour….but if there’s no policy or law written down people are like, “well I guess it’s not that bad, or whatever'." 

To start, the district is putting employees on notice that relationships between supervisors and direct subordinates will be considered an ethics violation. In the meantime, the district will begin crafting a policy that parses the lines between platonic, sexual and professional relationships. Such a policy could also extend to employment—such as teachers teaching their own kids, or spouses who may supervise or report to each other.  

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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