Investigation is underway this week to determine whether Republican Clay County Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. used taxpayer money to sponsor an American history conference without school board approval.
A press release from Clay County School District 1 Member Janice Kerekes said the “Dare to Think” conference comes at a time of disagreement about the use of funds between the board and the superintendent.
“The superintendent continues to treat the school board budget as if it were his own personal checkbook,” according to the press release.
The “Dare to Think” conference, which is marketed to “instill an appreciation of American exceptionalism and heritage,” is on Nov. 4 and 5.
On Oct. 15, the Clay County School Board unanimously approved a measure to disassociate its name with the event over concerns that the event had a partisan bias.
According to emails sent to school board members and the superintendent, school board members were not made aware of the district’s association with the event during any board meetings.
Clay County School Board Chairman Carol Studdard said the board and citizens are worried about whether or not Van Zant used unauthorized tax money to fund the conference.
Clay County Schools spokesman Gavin Rollins said no tax payer money is being used to sponsor the event, and the conference is non-partisan.
“Board members are entitled to their personal opinions, but they are not entitled to (their own) facts,” Rollins said. “And the facts are the ‘Dare to Think’ conference is about American history.”
The Clay County School Board’s investigative meeting will be held at the Teacher Training Center at Fleming Island High School on Wednesday at 5 p.m.