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School superintendent resigns; take job as principal in Brevard


School Board members, who have made it clear they believe it’s time for new leadership in Indian River County, are expected to vote at the April 23 board meeting to not renew Superintendent Mark Rendell’s contract beyond June 30, 2020.

Their action comes one week after the board rejected Rendell’s demand that they agree by April 17 to pay him $62,545.60 to step down from his post effective May 24.

Despite Rendell’s initial threat to not negotiate further on his departure, he and the board were scheduled to discuss counter-offers during the April 23 board meeting, Board Chairwoman Laura Zorc said.

“We’re not going to be rushed through this,” Zorc said. “We’re going to take our time and make the best decision we can for the district.”

Several board members, including Zorc, balked at Rendell’s initial demand that the board agree to never make any “perceived disparaging” remarks about him, which include during future discussion of academic problems or lawsuits filed against the district during his tenure. If the board violated that agreement they could be sued.

Some board members during the April 16 special meeting referred to Rendell’s demand as a “gag order.” The board did not object to Rendell’s request that the district pay him for unused vacation time.

Board members Jacqueline Rosario and Mara Schiff expressed particular concern about the words “perceived” and “disparaging.”

“To tie our hands with this gag order would mean under no circumstances can we ever bring up anything that may be perceived as being disparaging,” Rosario said. “If indeed it is perceived, we could be sued – and that would mean we cannot be fully transparent on any of our work moving forward about anything that is tied to Dr. Rendell.”

Rendell’s tenure in the district has been plagued by controversy and scandals, which have cost the district millions of dollars in legal fees and fines.

The superintendent and some School Board members have been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute that erupted after the board began discussing Rendell’s upcoming job evaluation during a March 12 work session.

At that time, several board members indicated they might not support renewing the superintendent’s contract. According to Rendell’s contract, the board is required to notify him by July 31, 2019 if they don’t plan to renew his contract.

Rendell responded by hiring Tallahassee-based attorney H.B. Stivers who sent a letter to the board accusing them of meeting privately to discuss Rendell’s contract, thus violating the state’s Open Meetings Act. The board vehemently denied the allegations.

Rendell further raised the ire of board members by informing them by email on March 25 that he was seeking employment outside the district and reminding them that by the terms of his contract, he is only obligated to give them a 30-day notice of his departure.