Owen Roberts’ position as Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent is in the spotlight after questions regarding academic standards over a book he published, but members of the community came to his defense during Tuesday night’s School Board of Alachua County meeting.
The discussion was not on the official agenda during the meeting, but community members used the citizen input portion of the meeting to show their support for Roberts.
Roberts’ book, titled “A Framework for Improving School Systems in the 21st Century,” does not fall in line with the usual academic norms by citing sources, but instead uses large sections of verbatim text from other sources. Roberts apologized for what he called an oversight during the May 3 school board meeting.
During that meeting, board member April Griffin pushed for Roberts’ resignation. Since then, the board’s attorney has been looking over the claims, checking for any possible contractual violation or breach of district rules by Roberts.
“If he was removed from this district it would be catastrophic,” said Dejeon Cain, a community activist, during Tuesday’s meeting.
Cain doesn’t think the superintendent has anything to worry about, and the board should recognize that Roberts made a mistake.
“It’s not like he lied,” Cain said. “He said ‘Look it was an honest oversight, I am sorry.'”
Board member Gunnar Paulson said members of the community who address the board during citizen input and try to minimize the situation are approaching it the wrong way.
“I think he knows the rules,” Paulson said. “We’re not making a big deal out of nothing, this is a very serious situation.”
With a position of such visibility, Roberts is always being watched by numerous members of the community, Paulson said.
“We have got to be careful because we have students who are looking at this,” Paulson said. “And what do you tell them when they do something like that.”
But Cain said the community needs to stand behind him.
“I think instead of us trying to hurt him as a leader, we need to lift him up,” Cain said.
School Board attorney David Delaney hasn’t indicated when he would finish reviewing Roberts’ actions.