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Spotsylvania County hires superintendent with no public education experience

Mark Taylor is an administrator for Greene County, where he earns $135,000 a year, but four members of the Spotsylvania County Board of Education voted to pay him $110,000 more to become superintendent of schools.

School board member Nicole Cole objected -- reading a letter she said written by Taylor’s daughter who said she was home-schooled in a room above her parents’ café.

“Here I was instructed to essentially teach myself out of a math workbook and repeat three educational computer games designed for 2nd to 5th graders." she wrote.
"I was not allowed to learn about evolution. Instead, I was instructed to read and discuss the creation story from Genesis. I did not take a history course . My education was severely lacking and entirely centered around evangelical Christianity.”

As Cole continued reading aloud, member Lisa Phelps kept interrupting – accusing Cole of using a child to attack Taylor. Another member asked the chairman, Kirk Twigg, to take action.

“You need to stop Miss Phelps. She needs to be gaveled. Shame on you! Shame on you, Miss Phelps for wanting to hire someone who is not appropriate for our schools. It’s disgusting.”

Four members of the board clearly favored choosing Mark Taylor for the job, including the chairman who tried to limit discussion, but member Lorita Daniels urged him to allow ample debate.

“We get few opportunities to speak as board members here, because our comments are limited or we are piped down by the gavel,” she explained.

“Oh stop!” he replied, then apologized and asked her to continue.

“I’m sorry Mr. Chairman,” Daniels said. “As chairman you have to listen to us.”

Chairman Twigg had also hired a lawyer to assist with negotiating and writing a contract for the new superintendent, but the attorney had no experience working with schools. One member of the board asked the chairman why he had selected Whit Robinson for the job.

“The attorney we hired was available to help us with needs that are imminent, so there you go!”

“Mr. Twigg, do our imminent needs have to do with discipline matters or Title IX or Title VI? This gentleman, my guess is he would not know what those were,” the board member continued.

“Well thank you for your point of information,” Twigg said.

“Mr. Twigg, I’m asking you a question,” she pressed.

Twigg asked the lawyer to respond. He said he had considerable experience working with local government and personnel matters, and noted this was a temporary appointment, to last no more than 30 days. The attorney added that a new contract would be similar to one held by the previous superintendent, but Cole raised some key differences. She noted, for example, that Taylor would be paid $30,000 more than the last man to hold the job.

“You know when we went through the budget season, it was so imperative that we didn’t spend money, that the school system didn’t have money, but gosh, this is a very rich offer!”

And she questioned a promise to pay Taylor for the full length of his 3 year, 8 month contract, if he were ever fired without cause.

Despite those objections, a majority approved Taylor’s hiring. On the Fox Affiliate in Washington D.C. he asked the public to “try an unconventional approach, just for a bit, and see what it can do. He insisted he was not transphobic or homophobic, and said he would make school safety his top priority.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief