The first public meeting of the new Brevard County School Board got off to a contentious start, as the fourth District’s Matt Susin’s nomination for chairman met a withering dissent from District 3’s Jennifer Jenkins, questioning his commitment to the board, a potential future political run, and his track record on transparency or lack thereof. However, after a 3-2 vote, Mr. Susin was elected to be the chairman and presided over the remainder of the meeting.
At the heart of the vast majority of public commentary, which took up well over two hours of the meeting’s runtime, was the newly passed rule 6A, passed down by the state’s board of education, regarding bathroom usage and gender identity.
A raft of speakers advocated on behalf of LGBT students at the podium, beseeching the board to show compassion and empathy for an already marginalized population. These speakers ranged from educators to former students, grandparents and allies.
A minority of those who chose to comment pleaded that the board not get “sucked into” national political debates, disparaging the former chairwoman’s “regime” of mask mandates and focus on “social justice crap.” Some of their rhetoric echoed that of the Moms for Liberty, a Melbourne, FL-based nonprofit that has recently risen to prominence in Florida. Indeed, one of these speakers identified herself as a member of the group.
Nearing the end of the meeting, District 1’s Megan Wright brought up the possibility that a “change of leadership” may be needed, by which she was referring to superintendent Dr. Mark Mullins. After a passionate defense of his leadership by Ms. Jenkins, and over cries of protest from some members of the audience, Dr. Mullins, who seemed to be expecting this, said that he would voluntarily step down from his position and would enter into contract-ending negotiations at a later date and venue.
Finally, after nearly five hours, the board recommended to Dr. Mullins that the district should align itself to comply with the directives of rule 6A, restricting bathroom use based on the “biological sex assigned at birth.” With that, the meeting drew to an abrupt close.
Today, Katye Campbell of the fifth District issued a statement regarding the meeting at large, and specifically the board’s ouster of Dr. Mullins: “The decision to pursue a change in leadership was premature at best… As I stated … in yesterday’s meeting, an appointed superintendent serves at the will of the [five] selected members… [A]fter watching Dr. Mullins successfully work under the leadership of a sometimes very divided board, I had every confidence (and so did other county leaders) that he could serve just as well under this new board.”