Q+A with Trevor Tucker, Flagler County School Board chairman
As chairman of the Flagler County School Board, Trevor Tucker’s job is to make sure the public is heard and that the agenda items are covered during meetings. What happens when those making public comments don’t follow the rules of decorum? And why are the rules in place?
Tucker spoke with the Palm Coast Observer on Aug. 18, the day after a School Board meeting had to be stopped, temporarily, due to the audience’s refusal to follow the attorney’s direction.
In the interview, Tucker also weighed in on the dress code policy, the mask mandates, and his political future. See the video version and other episodes of "Observations" at https://www.youtube.com/user/PalmCoastObserver/videos.
You’ve been on the School Board since 2010. What drives you?
Mainly that I have two children in the school system.
It’s good when you get something done and you accomplish something — that’s a good feeling — but there’s a lot of monotony.
How is running a pest control business like running the School Board?
They are not very similar, to be truthful. The only thing you have, is you have customers in both, whether those customers happen to be students or. you want to satisfy those customers and make them happy.
Let’s talk about the Aug. 17 School Board meeting. What happened?
During public comment, we have rules that we expect everyone to follow, and some of those rules weren’t followed, and they continued to not be followed after so many warnings, so we asked to clear the room so people can be heard in public comment, so that there’s not intimidation. That’s what you worry about with public comment. If you have people clapping, and then someone gets up and they get booed, is that person ever going to want to get up again? So we have no clapping, no response from the audience, no response from the School Board. It’s not a question-and-answer time; it’s a time for the School Board to hear comments from the public.
We do want to hear from the public, but we don't want to hear from the public all night long, because we would never get the business done.
This is the first time we’ve ever had to ask a crowd to leave.
Whenever people get agitated, and you’re yelling, and it’s past the three minutes, and you say, “Will you please?” and they’re still yelling, what do you do? It kind of makes you want to stop the meeting.
Do you sympathize with the people who are opposed to a mask mandate at schools?
A little bit. Personally, I will wear a mask or not wear a mask, if it makes people feel comfortable. I don’t like to wear a mask.
But I do feel that the Florida Department of Health, with their guidelines, parents do have that option. That’s something you don’t mess with — those guidelines. Two districts in the state messed with it, and you don’t know what those consequences are going to be. The state even hinted at removing School Board members and superintendents. That’s a big deal. (Editor's Note: Tucker voted against a mask mandate at the Aug. 17 meeting.)
What’s the future of the uniform policy?
I’m actually pretty easy. As long as people are being educated, I don’t care what the children wear, as long as it’s appropriate and not offensive. I’ve never voted for a uniform policy.
I don’t want to change it every year, though.
There are a lot of houses and apartments planned to be built in Palm Coast. How long until we need a new school?
This is the first time in quite a few years when we’ve had a significant jump in students: 600 more students this year than last year. If the growth continues — that’s a big if — we’ll probably in two to three years, at least in the secondary, at least need an addition.
You have to rezone first, because if you don’t maximize the student stations you have, the state won’t let you build a new school.
The School Board has raised its impact fees, which means new homes will likely cost a few thousand dollars more each. Why is that necessary?
That money has to be used for new student stations. Some of it can be used to pay off old debt that was used for new student stations.
I think it’s over $90 million for a high school. That baffles me.
Flagler Schools’ half-penny sales tax, which helps to keep schools up to date with technology, is about to expire. Why should voters renew it?
Our district was really ahead during the pandemic, because we didn’t have to order laptops. It was really fluid, especially with Remote Live last year, because if students did get quarantined, they could hop online and watch their class.
I’m hoping it (gets renewed). If not, we will probably not have technology in our district the way we have it now. It wouldn’t reach all the way down to the elementary level.
What is a rule of leadership you try to follow?
Give everyone a chance to speak, and be consistent.
You’re up for re-election in 2022. Are you running?
We’ll see. I’m not decided yet.
What have you learned about this community as a School Board member?
As long as people are happy, you don’t hear from them. If something isn’t going right, you hear from a lot of individuals.
Overall, everyone cares about education — businesses, other local governments. I feel that’s unique in this community.