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'I didn't run for this job for a salary': Leon County School Board members respond to salary loss

Posted at 8:54 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 22:56:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County School Board members are now working without a paycheck.

However, the message from most is that their job protecting students in Leon County is more important than money.

"I promise you; I didn't run for this job for a salary," said school board member DeeDee Rasmussen.

Leon County School Board Member DeeDee Rasmussen and the four other board members will work without pay.

On Friday, the Florida Board of Education decided to withhold monthly pay of their $37,000 annual salary for every month the state finds Leon County isn't in compliance with state regulations.

Leon County recently voted to require asymptomatic, unvaccinated students recently exposed to students who forego quarantine to wear a mask.

Meaning so long as that rule stands, roughly $3,000 monthly before taxes are no longer coming to the board members. For most board members, the job isn’t the only source of income for most of the board.

"I am concerned not because of my salary, but because of the fiscal and emotional impacts on the district," said Rasmussen.

Guidance from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran early in summer 2021 referred to withheld salaries as an ”initial step," hinting at consequences down the road.

School board member Daryl Jones said his next steps include fighting for federal funding for students.

"I’m going to demand that the Governor and the commissioner of education make certain they harvest federal funds to remedy learning loss, respond to juvenile crime, and make schools safe," said Jones.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen is focused on mental health.

"We had over 200 suicide risk assessments in just this first nine weeks of school, we've had about 100 behavioral threat assessments and over 3,000 suspicious activity. So, I continue to be very concerned about our students and our need to get back to normal as quickly as we possibly can,” she said.

Jones was one of the more vocal board members calling for stronger mask mandates.

"I'm employed by my principals in my district, and they told me they wanted their kids masked," he said.

Before the start of the school year, Rasmussen advocated a different route.

"I took an oath to uphold the law and so we ought to challenge that in court, not by just ignoring, you know, we can't just pick and choose which laws we want to follow," she said.

Both are now a united front in fighting those sanctions from the state.

"I do think it raises an interesting legal question, and that is, does the executive branch have the authority to reach into local government and discontinue funding when there's a disagreement on policy issues," asked Rasmussen.

The board is challenging the state board of education's decision. A two-day hearing will begin on Thursday.