DOE investigating cases in Osceola County; School board member outraged

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. —

Channel 9 uncovered emails that reveal the Department of Education is investigating cases in Osceola County and one school board member is outraged.

The emails reveal school board chairman Jay Wheeler doesn’t want investigators in the district, and he even tried to have them kicked out. 

The Florida Department of Education isn't saying why it sent investigators to Osceola County last week, but Wheeler isn’t happy and he spoke with WFTV about it.

“The Department of Education is incompetent,” said Wheeler.

The school board chair told us the DOE has no business in the district. He sent the same message to Florida School Board Association director Wayne Blanton.  

In the emails Channel 9 uncovered, Wheeler asked Blanton for his help and writes, "We need DOE to pack up its toys and leave Osceola County quietly and quickly."

“It's really unbelievable, the lack of accountability and transparency,” said former board member Julius Melendez, who served on the board with Wheeler for four years.

After seeing the emails, Melendez said, “In order for us as leaders to address issues, we need to know they exist so to ask the Department of Education to not stay here, not be present, is inappropriate.”

Five people sit on Osceola's school board, plus there's the superintendent and an attorney, but in his emails, Wheeler writes he needs to be the first to know what investigators find. 

He went on to write, “Better yet, need them to not find anything and just fade away."

On Wednesday, Wheeler stood by those words and insisted he has nothing to hide.

“Were you trying to impede a state investigation when you sent these emails?” asked Channel 9’s Nancy Alvarez.

“No,” said Wheeler. “I was not trying to impede anything. My intention is to get Osceola County where we need to be for kids without the interference of an agency that doesn't know what they're doing.”

A district spokeswoman told Channel 9 Wheeler was speaking for himself in the emails.

In a statement, Blanton said, “I never reached out to the state on behalf of Jay Wheeler. I am not in the business of interfering in anyone's investigation."


Email chain below:


From: Wayne Blanton  

Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 10:43 AM

To: Jay Wheeler

Subject: Re: Help with FL Dept. of Education please

I will try and call the commissioner tomorrow and see what is going on.   Better yet I may call someone else who could help

Even more

Sent from my iPhone


On Apr 10, 2013, at 10:22 AM, "Jay Wheeler"  wrote:

That’s your call. I’ll be in San Diego too. Getting in Friday afternoon. We need DOE to pack up its toys and leave Osceola quietly and quickly. Thanks,  JW

From: Wayne Blanton  

Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 10:15 AM

To: Jay Wheeler

Subject: Re: Help with FL Dept. of Education please

I can talk to the commissioner on Monday. On my way to San Diego for the national meeting.  Do you need me to call him sooner ??  Wayne

Sent from my iPhone


On Apr 10, 2013, at 10:00 AM, "Jay Wheeler" wrote:

Wayne, since becoming Chairman of the Osceola School Board I have done all I can to keep things peaceful and moving in the right direction focusing on students. Notice that the previous controversies have died down on my watch. Yesterday it came to my attention that the Dept. of Education is going through our schools interviewing employee’s, students, etc. As a kind of fidelity check on investigations that we have had and closed. My fear is that these investigators job is to find something, and go back to their keepers to say: “look what I found” after all they have to justify their existence. If they go back and say, we didn’t find anything-their boss could easily take the position: “then why did we spend all that money for you to go there?”

First off, I need to know before anyone else does if and what they find. Or better yet, need them to not find anything and just fade away. We are still recovering from Cindy Hartig, and at this time we need to keep our focus on students and not have to deal with some new distraction from DOE. Frankly DOE would be better off using resources to figure out how to get HS data back to school districts faster. Please let me know if you can help. Thanks, Jay Wheeler