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BOE posts top position

Collier not permanent until late February


News Staff Writer

Dr. Michele Collier went from being the county school system’s acting school superintendent, to its interim superintendent to its permanent superintendent in a matter of a few weeks. Now she’s back to square one.

Escambia County Board of Education members learned Monday, January 22, that their action of last Thursday, January 18 — offering Collier a contract to take on the superintendent’s role on a permanent basis — was based on incorrect advice from the school board’s legal counsel.

“We had a mix-up last week and put the cart before the horse regarding the superintendent,” Board President Loumeek White said at the start of Monday’s meeting. “The law requires that we announce the proposed process and timeline for posting and selecting a permanent superintendent within 90 days of the vacancy and that we post the position for 30 days.”

He offered a proposal to make sure county education officials were in compliance with state law and praised Collier’s willingness to help eliminate some of the controversy that has plagued the panel for months. Collier has been Acting Superintendent since shortly after Michele McClung’s contract was bought out by the BOE in December.

“As you all know, and as we discussed in detail at last week’s board meeting, Dr. Collier selflessly accepted the position of Acting Superintendent during what has been a trying time for our system,” White said. “It is my personal opinion that our best course of action is to maintain the stable leadership Dr. Collier has provided as we’ve moved forward during this process, and that we name her Interim Superintendent, effective February 1, 2024.

“While I’m certainly open to considering any qualified applicants, I think it is only fair of us to acknowledge the very real possibility that Dr. Collier will be ultimately selected for the superintendent position. For that reason, I am proposing an abbreviated search.”

The position will be posted immediately for the 30 required days, with applications being accepted from any qualified person within the local system. Applications will be due no later than 4 p.m., February 21, 2024, and the board will consider all applications during its February 22 meeting. The law does not require the BOE to interview each applicant.

“I anticipate we will hire from within the system,” he said. “Once we have announced our choice for superintendent, we will consider the terms of the appointment and the compensation for the superintendent.”

Board attorney Kirk Garrett, replying to a question from District 2’s Danny Benjamin, confirmed that the law does not require interviews for all candidates.

“The law does not require that you interview anyone else,” the lawyer said. “We had a mix-up there. I did not advise y’all correctly in the sense we have to post it for 30 days. That’s what we need to do, what we’re here for today.

“I take full responsibility as your counsel; I should have remembered and thought of it. Everything will basically be the same at the end of the day. Everyone’s made it pretty clear what their decision will be.”

Garrett said after the meeting the job opening must be posted on all the school system’s campuses and facilities, but no further than that.

District 3’s Mike Edwards, who ultimately made the motion to offer Collier the job, asked if last week’s vote would hold, and Garrett told him it would have to be retaken. Edwards then suggested that when salary negotiations begin with Collier for the interim period, that she be made the system’s highest-paid employee.

“She’s not the highest paid right now, but she needs to be,” he said, noting his concerns that “other agendas” might pop up before February 21, apparently referring to the 4-3 vote that ended McClung’s tenure in August.

His amended motion, that Collier (or whomever) should be offered a six-month contract to serve on an interim basis, was accepted by the board.

Collier joined the local public school system in August 2022 as an assistant superintendent. For 14 years prior to that she served as Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Mobile County School System, and she was a classroom teacher for 11 years prior to that.

In other business conducted by the board during Thursday’s and Monday’s meetings, board members:

*Awarded a bid to Gulf States Distributors for metal detectors, as needed, for all county schools and facilities. Collier told BOE members most of the cost (around $100,000) for the detectors will be paid from a school safety grant. The remainder (estimated at $20,000-to-$30,000) will come from local funds.  

*Approved a February 27 trip to Tallahassee, Fla. for selected Escambia County High School seniors to tour Florida A&M University and Florida State University. The trip is not an overnight one, but the students will probably return late that night.

*Approved an overnight trip to Troy University for 12 Escambia County High School Honor Band students to attend the Southeastern United States High School Band and Clinic, February 1-3.

*Learned that the school system’s had $15,738,794.02 in its (unaudited) unrestricted bank account on December 31, 2023.

*Tabled for 30 days, as a matter of protocol, a newly established Cheerleading Constitution that will bring uniformity to the cheer squads across the county.

*Approved to partner with the Town of Flomaton in installment of a pedestrian crossing signal on U.S. 31. at Hurricane Park to alert motorists that athletic teams and other groups of students could be crossing there. If a grant application is approved, the BOE and the Town of Flomaton will each pay $22,800 to cover the required match.

*Went into executive session for about a half hour to discuss potential and pending litigation.

The following personnel recommendations were approved by the BOE at the regularly scheduled meeting January 18.

The following abbreviations are used:

Escambia County Board of Education – ECBOE

Rachel Patterson Elementary School – RPES

Escambia County Middle School – ECMS

Escambia County High School – ECHS

Flomaton High School – FHS

Pollard McCall Junior High School – PMJHS

W.S. Neal Middle School – WSNMS

W.S. Neal High School – WSNHS

Escambia County Alternative School – ECAS

Atmore Bus Shop – ABS


1. Kike Pettaway, probationary principal, ECHS, effective January 21, 2024, per agreement between ECBOE and Pettaway


1. Kike Pettaway, mental health coordinator, ECBOE, effective January 22, 2024, replacing Marlo Young

2. Joseph DiFilippo, teacher, ECHS, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Princess Davis

3. Kenyon Moody, elementary teacher, ECMS, effective January 2, 2024, replacing Seth Harwell

4. Sydney Garrett, special education teacher, ECMS, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Berna Milton

5. April Graham, elementary teacher, PMJHS, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Jessica Peterson

6. Jalen Pugh, physical education teacher, RPES, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Maurice Bradley

7. Heather Lavana, special education aide, RPES, effective January 19, 2024

8. Makala Lee, special education aide, RPES, effective January 19, 2024

9. Julius Armstrong, special education teacher, RPES, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Tina Garrett

10. Shykeeliah Collins, elementary teacher, RPES, effective February 1, 2024, replacing Rhonda Jarju

11. Deborah Wiggins, 6-house lunchroom worker, RPES, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Kendra Valenzuela

12. Hather Walton, English / language arts teacher, WSNMS, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Glyniss Booker

13. Angela Leachman, bus driver, ABS, effective January 19, 2024, replacing Ronald Hall

Leave of absence

1. Jason Stabler, teacher, ECAS, effective September 12, 2023 – December 12, 2023

After-school employment

The following positions are for the after-school program.

1. Alison Britt, teacher, FHS, effective January 19, 2024

2. Caroline Hughes, teacher, RPES, effective January 23, 2024

3. Julie McDonald, teacher, RPES, effective January 23, 2024

4. April George, teacher, RPES, effective January 23, 2024


1. Michael Roberts, TEAMS science, WSNHS, effective August 2, 2023