Governor's pick shakes up Indian River School Board
After a four-month vacancy, the Indian River School Board finally got a fifth member last week when Gov. Rick Scott appointed former Sebastian Vice-Mayor Dale Simchick to the open seat.
Simchick will not only break those 2-2 tie votes that had threatened to paralyze important education policy decisions, but she is also expected to be a strong advocate of charter schools, a model that had not been in favor with the board up to now.
Simchick, who sends her own son to a charter junior high school and represents the northern barrier island, central Indian River County and southern Sebastian, also let it be known she will not be a mere lame duck on the board to serve out the unexpired term of Jeff Pegler, who resigned in July to take a job in the Tampa Bay area. She announced she will run for re-election to a full term in November of next year.
The 55-year-old Sebastian resident met with Scott in Orlando between his business meetings last month for an in-person interview. Last week, she got the call directly from the governor that she was his pick to fill the empty District 2 seat.
Even though Simchick’s arrival may signal some coming controversy, everyone was all smiles last Friday when she was sworn in by Indian River County Judge Paul Kanarek. The School Board room was filled with district employees and fellow board members to welcome her.
“I am excited,” said Simchick. “I am just beaming.” From the moment she got the call from Scott to the swearing in, Simchick said it’s been a whirlwind. “I run at a fast speed. It’s a big responsibility. That doesn’t scare me,” she said, but she also asked the staff to bear with her as she works to come up to speed.
Simchick will resign her position as a board member of her son’s Sebastian Charter Junior High School, where she said she was exposed to issues that are important to her family as well as to the community. And on the Indian River County School Board, she said she’ll be able to address those issues on a county-wide basis.
While on the school board, Simchick will continue to work as a full-time administrative employee with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.
In the months the board has been down a member, there have been a couple of votes that ended in 2-2 ties between Chair Carol Johnson, Karen Disney-Brombach, Claudia Jiminez, and Matt McCain, preventing initiatives from going forward. Both votes occurred at the Oct. 8 board meeting, one on a possible School District health clinic and the other on the termination of an employee.
“I think it’s going to be lovely to have a five-member board again,” Johnson said.
The vast majority of items that come before the board are approved unanimously, but some issues have divided the members. The fifth person would ensure no more tie votes – unless a member needed to recuse him- or herself.
Johnson said she was impressed with Simchick because shortly after applying for the appointment, candidate Simchick had already started seeking information from the district. “She’s very thorough in her research,” Johnson said. “She’s been committed early on.”
Fellow board member Disney-Brombach said she looks forward to working with Simchick, though she has not had much interaction with her. “I know of her” through her campaigning for the Board of County Commissioners, Disney-Brombach said. She added Simchick will need to get up to speed quickly on policies and procedures so the School Board doesn’t lose momentum.