The Spotsylvania County School Board’s controversial choice to be the next superintendent got an important check mark from Virginia’s Board of Education on Thursday.
Mark Taylor, who was chosen by a slim margin of the school board Aug. 25, has no experience in public education, and has been scrutinized for racial and anti-public-school Facebook posts.
On Thursday, Virginia’s Boardt of Education met to select nominees who meet qualifications making them eligible to receive a superintendent’s license. Taylor was approved by a 6-2 vote.
The meeting included two hours of public comment, during which a majority of speakers implored the board to reject Taylor, in part because his close relationship with Spotsylvania School Board Chair Kirk Twigg. Taylor and his wife sit on the board of Twigg’s nonprofit, and the couple has written letters to the editor in support of Twigg’s school board campaigns.
However, much of the criticism focused on Taylor’s social media posts. Board member Anne Holton, who cast one of the two votes against Taylor, read one that referred to Oprah Winfrey: “What country in the 80s would allow a fat blacks woman to have a daytime talk show and become one of the richest people on the planet?”
Holton cited another post that suggested American parents should withdraw their children from public schools.
”We’re looking to qualify people to be superintendents, who can be role models for all of our children,” Holton said.
Board member Andy Rotherham said if he were on a local school board and read Taylor’s Facebook posts, he wouldn’t hire him: “They raise serious questions about judgment, about commitment to making Virginia Public Schools work for all students, and just general awareness of the obligations of public schools to be broadly inclusive, pluralistic, and responsive to parents.”
However, the choice to select Taylor was Spotsylvania County’s to make, he said.
”That’s the role of the people in Spotsylvania, speaking through their elected school board, which is what they’ve done,” said Taylor. “And as far as students go, that’s a civics lesson.”
Board member Alan Seibert agreed that the Virginia Board of Education’s role should be limited: “Citizens can elect, and then un-elect, their leaders.”
The Spotsylvania County School Board held off offering a contract for Taylor to sign until he received the OK to receive a superintendent license. The board is expected to address the issue during a special meeting Thursday.