SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. (7News) — Some Spotsylvania County parents are voicing concern over the candidate who appears to be the school board's pick for superintendent, questioning both his qualifications and his connections to the chairman of the school board.
7News has been following Spotsylvania County Public Schools' search for a new leader since January when former superintendent Scott Baker was fired without cause in a 4-3 school board vote.
RELATED: Spotsylvania Co. School Board appoints new chair, fires superintendent in chaotic meeting
Now, there's new controversy over who the next superintendent will be.
"They want this person to come in and run the whole division who has zero experience in education," said parent Lizzie Verbel. "He doesn't have an education degree, he's never been a teacher. He's never worked in a school. That's just disturbing. I don't understand why they want him in the position."
The candidate to whom she's referring is Mark Taylor. He's a former Spotsylvania county administrator and county attorney who is currently working as county administrator in Greene County.
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"My biggest concern is that he just doesn't have the qualifications for the job," said parent Melissa Floyd, who has two kids in Spotsylvania County Public Schools. "I'm worried he does not know how to steer the ship. And we have quite a few openings in the upper-level administrative positions right now, so there's not a lot of back-ups."
The controversy also came up during an Aug. 25 meeting of the Spotsylvania County school board, during which some school board members questioned Chairman Kirk Twigg about his personal connections to Taylor.
"Is it not true that you have had a close personal relationship with the candidate and his wife for over 15 years? Is that not true?," Board Member Nicole Cole asked Twigg during that meeting. "I am asking for the facts of the relationship that Mr. Twigg has with Mr. Taylor, the candidate."
Twigg refused to answer Cole's questions during the meeting. He also would not answer 7News' questions when reached him by phone on Tuesday.
7News has confirmed that Taylor and his wife have in fact served as board members on a nonprofit called 'Emerging Stars' that is run by Twigg's family. A spokesperson for Spotsylvania County Public Schools said the relationship between Taylor and Twigg involved "no financial contributions or payments."
"It's a complete conflict of interest. Mr. Taylor worked on the board of directors for Mr. Twigg's company. They're friends," said Verbel. "That's a huge conflict."
During the Aug. 25 board meeting, Cole asked Twigg to recuse himself from a school board vote to move forward with Taylor's hiring.
"I believe you need to recuse yourself from this vote as you have a clear conflict of interest and cannot be impartial or be able to place the needs of the school system over your relationship with this candidate," Cole said.
Despite that concern, Twigg and three other board members voted 4-3 to approve a motion directing Twigg, as the chairman, "to send a letter to the Virginia Board of Education requesting that Mark Taylor be added to the list of eligible division superintendents," because the school board "is interested in employing Mr. Taylor as division superintendent."
Since Taylor does not have a background in education, Virginia state law says the state Board of Education must sign off on the Spotsylvania County School Board's request for Taylor to be approved for a superintendent’s license.
The Virginia code regarding the issuance of a division superintendent license by the state Board of Education says that someone without experience in education can be granted a superintendent license provided they meet the following qualifications:
The Virginia Board of Education is expected to consider Spotsylvania County's request regarding Mark Taylor at the BOE's next meeting on Sept. 15. Parents who are concerned about Taylor's qualifications told 7News they also plan to attend that meeting, to try to make their case to the state Board of Education.
"Parents didn't get to have a voice in this. We didn't have a public meeting about it, there were no comments allowed, so speaking to the Virginia Board of Education is really the last chance we have," Floyd said. "Without any education background, it really just seems like a bad move all the way around."
7News has also reached out to Taylor, but we have not yet heard back.
A spokesperson for Spotsylvania County Public Schools sent the following statement:
The Board has made their decision for Superintendent. Mr. Taylor has met all the licensure requirements set forth in Virginia code 8VAC20-23-630 option 4. The Board now awaits the Virginia Board of Education to confirm Mr. Taylor has met the licensure requirements.
Parents said they hope the Virginia Board of Education takes their concerns into consideration before making a final decision.
"I would just say look at what this school board has been doing. They're not working together," Verbel said of Spotsylvania County's school board. "We're trying to get the Virginia Board of Education to listen to us, to help us out here. This is pretty much all we can do, is be vocal."
If the Virginia Board of Education agrees to Spotsylvania County's request, then the final step in the superintendent hiring process would be approval of a contract for Taylor.
You can read the letter Spotsylvania County School Board Chair Kirk Twigg sent to the Virginia Board of Education below: