Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd

Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd

POLK COUNTY – During a work session on Sept. 3, Polk School Board member Lynn Wilson explained why he changed his mind about whether to ask Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd to delay her retirement.

The subject first came up during a work session Aug. 25, during which time school board member Kay Fields proposed asking Byrd to delay her retirement until the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2021. Fields' state reasoning was so that the board would not be rushed into finding her replacement.

A majority of the school board members (Wilson, Billy Townsend, Sarah Fortney and Lisa Miller) opposed the proposal.

On Sept. 3, Wilson elaborated on why he initially opposed the proposal and why he had changed his mind since. Wilson said he called Byrd prior to the work session on Aug. 25 and the two spoke more about why Byrd announced her retirement so suddenly on May 19 – citing problems with some board members.

Wilson said her reasoning was compelling and that he did not think there was a sufficient reason to ask her to delay her retirement. Wilson said since the Aug. 25 work session, he received lots of input from the public, so much that he decided to reach out to Byrd again. Wilson said Byrd told him she would not oppose delaying her retirement until the end of the fiscal year to help out the district, but that she refused to stay superintendent any longer than that.

Townsend strongly questioned some of Byrd's assertions during the Sept. 3 work session. Townsend said Byrd's retirement letter “included a lie” that referenced him. Later, Townsend suggested that Byrd, if asked to delay her retirement, might wind up staying permanently now that he had lost his election in August to William Allen.

Fields defended Byrd.

“Mrs. Byrd is not a liar, not in my opinion,” Fields said. “I wish she would stay. I wish she would change her mind. But I don't think that is going to happen.”

With the majority of the board now in support of asking Byrd to delay her retirement to give the board more time to find her replacement, School Board Chair Lori Cunningham said she would talk to Byrd about the proposal.

The school board met again Sept. 8, after this edition of the Sun went to press.