Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa told a school board member Friday that he will no longer meet with her without his private attorney present and warned that she “will be held accountable” for making unspecified negative comments about him.
In an email from Avossa to board member Barbara McQuinn shortly after midnight Friday, he accused her of “continued posturing” and warned her to “be very careful about comments you’re making about me to community members.” He did not say what the alleged comments were.
“Given your recent comments at the board meeting and continued posturing in public and private conversations you’ve had with community members and staff in private … I will not meet with you in person unless it’s absolutely necessary and only with my attorney present,” he wrote.
“Moving forward,” he added, “please submit all requests for information through the board office - be very careful about comments you’re making about me to community members - they are being relayed back to me - you will be held accountable for them.”
Reached Monday, Avossa declined to comment on the email. In an interview, McQuinn acknowledged receiving the message. She said she didn’t respond to Avossa but that the email from him had been “a punch to the gut.”
“That’s not how I do things,” she said. “I’ve made it very clear that I’m supportive of his continued leadership of the district. I also promised in my campaign that I was going to watch the dollars.”
Avossa’s relationship with board members has been strained by his surprise announcement this month that he would resign in June to take a job at a Palm Beach Gardens publishing company.
It’s not clear what board-meeting remarks Avossa was referring to in his email, but at a Feb. 14 board meeting McQuinn raised the question of whether board members should replace Avossa with an interim superintendent while they search for a permanent replacement.
“I need to understand why we are so unwilling to have someone temporarily take the helm who is working with us and who plans to continue working with us,” McQuinn said at the time.
Her colleagues rejected the notion of an interim superintendent.
Board members are expected to select a new superintendent on March 7. That person would replace Avossa in June under the current plan.
McQuinn declined to speculate about what private comments he might have believed she made but rejected the idea that she was “posturing.”
“I don’t posture,” she said. “If I feel something needs to be called out, I call it out.”
In the email, Avossa identified his private attorney as D. Glenn Brock, a partner in an Atlanta law firm who specializes in school law.
Avossa has had a series of publicized blow-ups in recent months. In October, he took to Twitter to criticize a Palm Beach Post article as a “false narrative” and “#fake news.” He later apologized.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve,” he said afterward. “I think anybody who knows me knows that. I’m an emotional person. I care about my team. We’ve been working so hard to build an authentic relationship between staff and leadership.”
In December, he blasted the president of the county teachers as “hostile” and “inexperienced” and accused him of editing videos of contract negotiations to deceive teachers about what had occurred during the meeting.
After the union president denied the allegation and demanded he retract the claim, Avossa admitted he had no evidence to support it.
McQuinn, a former high school principal and area superintendent, was elected to the school board in November 2016.
In December, she rated Avossa as “effective” on his annual evaluation. At the time, she wrote that he “is to be commended for ongoing focus on increased student achievement for all students.”
But she pointed out that while the county’s public schools are improving by many measures, they are improving more slowly than the state overall.
“Although the district continues to boast the highest overall performance among Florida’s (seven) largest districts, the growth data indicates less forward motion compared to the state in several areas,” she wrote.
Here is Avossa’s complete email to McQuinn:
Given your recent comments at the board meeting and continued posturing in public and private conversations you’ve had with community members and staff in private - Dr. Johnson, Pat Kaupe - former elected officials - and other status quo protectors that have been shared with me - I will not meet with you in person unless it’s absolutely necessary and only with my attorney present - have a great night and see you soon.
Moving forward- please submit all requests for information through the board office - be very careful about comments you’re making about me to community members - they are being relayed back to me - you will be held accountable for them.
My attorney Glenn Brock is copied on this email -