“I Was Threatened With Death”: Janet McDonald of the school board rewrites history with fabrication

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On September 9, the Flagler County School Board hosted a one-day workshop it called a “retreat” to conduct the “Main Board” program, an exercise designed to train school boards and their superintendent in governance and efficiency. The program is designed by the Florida School Board Association. The Flagler session was moderated by April Griffin, FSBA Leadership Services Consultant.

The Flagler panel is fractured. It has seen tense and controversial meetings and at times bitter internal disagreements. Tensions spread in broad daylight during the session, which was held in a conference room on the third floor of the Government Services Building, attended by Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt and council counsel Kristy Gavin. The session was open to the public and was little attended, although at one point the school board lawyer and two board members attempted to bar a reporter and others from recording the meeting. The journalist did not comply. The ban would have violated Florida’s open meeting law.

This is the first of two articles on retirement. See the second, “Flagler School Board ‘Retirement” Revealed in Resentment and Accusation as Deep Dysfunction Is Exposed. “

Flagler County School Board member Janet McDonald, who has often used her board seat to peddle false and misleading information or to attempt improper and unapproved maneuvers, claimed earlier this month during a school board retirement – wrongly – that an audience member accused the canopy and threatened her with death, and the school board, lawyer or police did nothing.

McDonald, speaking vehemently at a school board “retreat” on September 9, accused Randy Bertrand, the parent of a district student who spoke to the school board frequently between 2019 and 2021, and who briefly introduced himself for council, making the death threat. Bertrand denies it. Video recording of the incident shows McDonald’s fabricated much of the way she described the incident during the September 9 workshop. (See the video segment at the bottom of the article.)

The issue emerged early in the session as moderator April Griffin, consultant to the Florida School Board Association, urged board members to turn off Facebook for a month. “Leave all the noise and focus on what’s best for the kids. Not only their health and safety, but their success. Griffin then said she wanted to talk about “civility.”

“I watched your last meeting,” she told the board, referring to the August 17 meeting.

“God bless you,” Janet McDonald said.

“I don’t know how long your recess lasted. But if it was 30 minutes, an hour, it’s an hour of your life when you’re not doing your job. And you let them distract you, ”Griffin continued. She added: “Your parliamentarian is your lawyer. When she says we’re on recess, because the crowd is unruly, it means you are on recess. And I’m sorry, I’ll say this: go away. Go back to the back. Let everything calm down. I’m not saying names, but you know, you haven’t accomplished anything by staying ahead except to keep people pissed off.

The names she had in mind were McDonald’s and Jill Woolbright, board member.

“Now you can shake your head. The prospect is reality, okay? Griffin continued. “My point of view was what I saw from this video. So this is my reality. I have already said that I have not lived it. But what I saw was that there was no unified council. And before I get into civility, I want to know: Do you want to learn and work together? “

“Absolutely,” McDonald said. She was the only one to speak up – the one who pissed off the crowd the most that night, the one who undermined the cohesion of the board the most, who bent the board the most over the years, and who did so again at the August 17 meeting when she refused to obey a deputy’s warnings to go to a back room.

She again presented her alternate reality to Griffin, claiming that “the board is to blame” for the slippage of the meeting, “leaving the responsibility only to Kristie”, that is to say Kristy Gavin, the lawyer of the advice. But that was incorrect: as Griffin had stated, he was Gavin’s responsibility to act as a parliamentarian. Gavin herself said that, as in the past, if a parliamentarian or the chairman of the board requested a recess, we took a recess.

It was then that, while she was being corrected, McDonald made the claim about Bertrand.

“But when I was threatened with death by Randy Bertrand and he loaded the stage, nothing was done. We did not recreate. We calmed down, we stayed there and the crowd calmed down, ”said McDonald.

“I don’t remember you’ve ever been threatened,” said Colleen Conklin, school board member. McDonald has also not mentioned the alleged incident since.

“He loaded the stage and he said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ Got up from his seat and loaded the platform, ”said McDonald. “I was president at the time. Colleen, I don’t care if you remember. I do. I remember viscerally, and yet nothing was done. There was no police report. There had been no action, no, no recess, no clearing of the building. It was a person, and a crowd angry over a policy, a word to add to our policies. “

“Has anyone else heard you being threatened?” Conklin asked. Tucker was the only other board member at the time. He said it was a long time ago.

“You can’t dismiss the way that made Janet feel,” Griffin said of McDonald’s interpretation. “You cannot dismiss it, because it is its reality.”

“And if everyone is watching the tape, it won’t just be Janet’s reality,” McDonald said. “I understand his emotions, I understand his reaction. I did not file any complaints. I didn’t empty the room, we just let the room calm down. The meeting could therefore continue.

In fact, according to the video McDonald is referring to, nothing that McDonald described took place, and the meeting was indented – by Gavin.

The meeting McDonald is referring to took place on the evening of June 16, 2020. It was the first meeting with Cathy Mittelstadt in the superintendent’s chair. Jack Petocz, a student at Flagler Palm Coast High School, was the final speaker in the public comment segment. About 40 minutes before the meeting, Petocz had started talking about “hatred towards minority groups has become more and more common in our world”.

Petocz blamed the Trump administration and police brutality before saying, “The president of Flagler’s school board has only amplified and-”

McDonald cut him off, stopped him from continuing, said what he was saying was “not the board’s job, this is a problem you have with me”, and invited him to him. talk later, but without continuing his statement. Stunned school board member Andy Dance was going later call the maneuver a “low point” in the history of counseling. (See Petocz full, statement not edited here.)

Petocz was referring to revelations days earlier that McDonald’s was using his Twitter feed to spread misinformation, tweets about “brainwashing” children in schools, denigrating Black Lives Matter protesters and ridiculing LGBTQ rights. (She didn’t stop. “The jab kills and maims !! “, she tweeted earlier this month, one of many covid-denying lies, also retweeting a line deny the election of Biden: “This is why you do not certify the fraud. “).

After McDonald’s censored Petocz, Conklin raised an issue with the process, claiming that “the individual could have continued with his comment whether we like it or not,” if only with a warning not to use names. “We have to be careful not to allow people to express themselves and share.”

McDonald responded, saying she was criticized after recent board meetings “because I allowed people to say things that were personally touched on.”

That’s when Bertrand got his temper from the back of the room: “Why didn’t you resist…” he began, immediately berated by counsel for the council, Conklin and Andy. Dance. Bertrand got up from his chair, but never approached the platform. In the room, he was diametrically across from where McDonald was sitting, and even though he walked near the dais at the other end, where Tucker was sitting, he was never close enough. to appear in the wide-angle frame of the meeting video. .

“Why didn’t you stand up for my son? Bertrand is heard screaming.

“Sir. Bertrand, I’m going to ask you to sit down,” Gavin told him, as a sheriff’s deputy walks from the left side of the room into the bedroom well, but barely for a second. then return and exit the frame.

McDonald, undisturbed by all of this, continued, “Please sit down Randy, it’s not about that,” she said, as Bertrand attempted to interrupt her again. very briefly, although what he is saying is incomprehensible to Gavin’s and McDonald’s request: “Let me speak please. One of the rules is that the board does not cannot communicate with the loudspeakers. It is very uncomfortable for the audience. But I would love to have a conversation with any person in this community about the misunderstandings, about how I conduct business according to the rules commonly accepted that advice… ”McDonald continued in his usual tone, not looking at all changed, upset or uncomfortable.

It is undeniable from the video that while Bertrand interrupted the meeting with his anger, he was at no time threatening, either with words or when approaching the podium, let alone s ‘approaching McDonald’s. If he had made an audible death threat, he would have been arrested. McDonald’s assertion to the contrary is a fabrication.

The same is true of his claim that “there was no action, no, no recreation.” After McDonald continued for three minutes to talk about “working together” and that “we are one human race,” Gavin said, “Council, at this point, I’m going to suspend this meeting for five minutes, where we Come back to the platform, and we’ll begin our meeting.

McDonald had no objection to Gavin, as a parliamentarian, suspending the meeting. McDonald’s made no attempt to call for a vote or interfered in any way with Gavin. The meeting – the very first meeting with Cathy Mittelstadt in the superintendent’s chair – has been suspended. Five months later, as the board bid farewell to Dance and Maria Barbosa, McDonald, in the bedroom well, passed the microphone to everyone who wanted to speak, including Bertrand, who stood next to her. ‘she and spoke before he and McDonald kissed.

Obviously, there was no sign of animosity between them.



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