LAKELAND, Fla.—The Alachua County School Board in 2020-21 tangled with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly during a bitter battle that pit local school board autonomy against the state’s preemptive authority in managing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with the Broward County School Board, it was one of two Florida school boards where members’ salaries were docked by the state and their districts fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for imposing mask mandates in defiance of a DeSantis’ executive order and a state Department of Health rule banning such actions.
While the fines were rescinded in court rulings, the board’s actions induced controversy, which invited scrutiny. One of its five members was removed by DeSantis because she lived outside her district. His appointee, Mildred Russell, then cast the deciding vote when the board fired Alachua County School Superintendent Carlee Simon….


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