Two legal efforts are challenging the Spotsylvania School Board’s decision to hire former Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor as superintendent. Two district parents are asking the Spotsylvania Circuit Court to review that decision, seeking an injunction block Taylor’s appointment, and school board member Nicole Cole is appealing the Virginia Board of Education’s (VBOE) decision to license Taylor as a superintendent, according to WJLA.
“We intend to show under that code that the actions of the Spotsylvania County School Board were both capricious and an abuse of discretion in direct violation of Va. Code Section 22.1-87,” plaintiffs Jeffrey Glazer and Christina Ramos said in their petition against the school board.
At the beginning of October Glazer and Ramos signed their complaint against the school board, using Va. Code Section 22.1-87 which allows parents of students attending a school to petition a circuit court to review the school board’s action. They seek a temporary restraining order blocking Taylor’s appointment while the case goes forward.
The Spotsylvania School Board has a conservative majority that took power this year, and one of the board’s first actions was to remove the school superintendent. The petition says that in June 2022, prior to any interviews of candidates, Chair Kirk Twigg emailed then-Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) official Jon Russell about an Option IV superintendent’s licensure — a way to license someone to be a superintendent despite the candidate’s lack of education experience. In July, Twigg informed the VDOE that Taylor was the finalist for the position without the approval of the school board, according to the lawsuit.
In August, multiple school board members and members of the community spoke during public comment periods at the VBOE meeting, calling for the VBOE to block Taylor’s Option IV certification. Twigg also spoke to the VBOE, saying, “You’ve just heard from five of the 12 naysayers that come to all of our meetings and talk like that.”
The VBOE postponed a decision on Taylor; later in August, the school board voted four to three to appoint Taylor, according to The Free-Lance Star. In September, the VBOE heard more public criticism of Taylor including his lack of qualifications, controversial social media posts allegedly made by Taylor, and his close relationship to Twigg. But in that meeting, the VBOE voted six to two to certify Taylor, with several members expressing concern about the allegations against Taylor but declining to interfere in a local issue.
“Whether members of this board would hire is a different issue from whether we would license,” VBOE President Daniel Gecker said at the time. “And I’m not suggesting for a minute, by the way, since we have had no face-to-face contact to my knowledge with Mr. Taylor. So this is not, you know, suggesting that I would not hire but what I’m saying is that decision is separate, and that decision has been made by the duly elected school board.”
One day later, Twigg and Taylor signed the contract hiring Taylor.
At the VBOE’s October 20 meeting, more members of the public spoke against Taylor’s appointment. One speaker highlighted Jon Russell’s recent appointment as Spotsylvania communications director.
“Based on the evidence that I am presenting, it appears that at least one of the employees of the VDOE contributed to this conspiracy,” Spotsylvania County resident Rich Lieberman told the VBOE.
Lieberman also highlighted Virginia Administrative Code section 8VAC20-390-10, which seems to require division superintendents to have education experience, despite Option IV under section 8VAC20-23-630. Later in the meeting, Gecker said he was asking the Office of the Attorney General to opine on the apparent contradiction.
On Friday, Spotsylvania School Board Member Nicole Cole indicated that she was appealing the VBOE’s September decision to certify Taylor.
She told WJLA Taylor lacks experience.
“We have improvements we need to make within our school division, and we need leadership that actually understands this school division and its regulations, and has ideas and brings to the table the ability to make sure we are providing a quality education,” she said.
Spotsylvania Schools Communication Director Jon Russell told The Virginia Star the district doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.
– – –
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Taylor” by Greene County.