Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Superintendent's Accuser Changes Plagiarism Accusation; but the Former Principal Says Issue of Mislabeling Students Did Occur

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Superintendent's Accuser Changes Plagiarism Accusation; but the Former Principal Says Issue of Mislabeling Students Did Occur

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

A Clay County teacher and former principal Friday partially retracted her recent accusation that Clay Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. had plagiarized her work for his master's paper, but she doubled-down on her other assertion that he ignored warnings that some principals were fraudulently mislabeling students as disabled.

Susan Sailor, former principal of Keystone Heights High, held a news conference Friday at the Clay County Education Association office to defend herself and her claims, saying they are not a political ploy to embarrass Van Zant weeks before Aug. 30 primary.

Van Zant is fighting Republican challenger Addison Davis, Duval County's chief of schools, for the elected superintendent's seat.

Sailor initially put her complaints in an email to five members of the Clay County School Board Aug. 4. Since then Van Zant has denied her allegations and taken to Facebook to defend himself and the district.

Earlier this week he asked the Florida Ethics Commission for an independent investigation, though he said Friday he believes Sailor has no "probable cause or hard evidence" to back up her claims.

He accused Sailor of working with the teachers union and with critics on the School Board.

"It's a media circus; gutter politics," he said.

Sailor says she does not know Davis and never spoke with him. Until recently she considered Van Zant a friend, and she and her husband had contributed $1,000 to his re-election campaign, she said.

Sailor said Van Zant has been characterizing her as an unstable, disgruntled employee.

"He has continued to make me seem like I am an emotionally frail woman ... who is being manipulated by these mean ladies on the School Board," she said. "I'm so tired of that."

Sailor said she wants to clarify her plagiarism claim because recently Van Zant showed her how he used her research in a document for a presentation to the district's summer leadership institute for principals. She had assumed and incorrectly claimed in her email to the School Board that he had used her work in one of his master's degree projects, passing it off as his own. …

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