Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Debate Continues over Appointed School Board; CONSTITUTION Some Say It Proclaims Officials Be Elected, While Others Say Just a Charter Change Would Take Priority. EXPERIMENT Former Mayor John Delaney Suggested a 10-Year Period of Appointed Officials and Revert Back If People Don't Approve

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Debate Continues over Appointed School Board; CONSTITUTION Some Say It Proclaims Officials Be Elected, While Others Say Just a Charter Change Would Take Priority. EXPERIMENT Former Mayor John Delaney Suggested a 10-Year Period of Appointed Officials and Revert Back If People Don't Approve

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Opponents of recent efforts to allow Jacksonville's mayor to appoint School Board members say the Florida Constitution doesn't allow such a change in the first place.

But those pushing for the change disagree, saying a constitutional amendment that gives Duval County its status as a charter government also paves the way for allowing the city's mayor to appoint board members. Jim Rinaman Jr., an attorney considered one of the fathers of the county's consolidated government, said that constitutional amendment supersedes the section of the constitution that says School Board members will be elected.

However, W.C. Gentry, an attorney who has led other education-related constitutional challenges and was elected to the Duval County School Board in 2008, said the opposite is true.

A Florida Coastal School of Law professor who wrote a soon-to-be published textbook on the Florida constitutional law agrees. At the Times-Union's request, professor Cleveland Ferguson weighed in on the issue, stating the constitution does not give Duval County the right to appoint School Board members.

"Charter counties such as Duval County have no more authority to unilaterally amend the constitution than noncharter counties," Ferguson wrote in his analysis. "Proponents of charter governments appointing school board members must first successfully amend Florida's constitution."

Former Mayor John Delaney, now president of the University of North Florida, and other city leaders are pushing the Charter Revision Commission to support an appointed school board.

The committee's nonbinding recommendations are due to the Jacksonville City Council in February. The council can pick and choose which, if any, of those recommendations will be pursued.

Delaney said chronic issues in the school system, including a low graduation rate and failing schools, deserves a fresh approach that could be fostered by letting the mayor appoint board members. …

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