Despite pressure, Osceola Co. school board chairman refuses resignation



OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - A power struggle only Eyewitness News uncovered among Osceola County School Board members could continue Tuesday night.

Board member Tom Long asked controversial Chairman Jay Wheeler to quit Tuesday night.

Wheeler said no.

Just minutes into the Osceola County School Board meeting, Wheeler had closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.

Board member Barbara Horn also wanted Wheeler gone.

"Mr. Wheeler, your conduct is unbecoming of the school district of Osceola County and I'm asking you to step down as chair," Horn said.

"Are you a man of your word and will you step down?" asked Long.

When Wheeler said no, the meeting was adjourned.

Channel 9's Nancy Alvarez asked Wheeler to comment on the move to get him off the Board, and he said, "You want to hear what I have to say, come to the meeting."

In November, Wheeler was named school board chairman and vowed to be a strong leader.

"You stand up for what's right. And if you don't, then you're not a leader," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said if he became chairman, the culture of fear and intimidation would be done.

Long said Wheeler did not stick to his word and he wants him out.

"The most recent comments he made to your news station, I believe, are inappropriate," Long said.

Long was referring to Wheeler's reaction last month when Channel 9 asked him about his attempt to stop a Department of Education investigation into the district.

"The Department of Education is incompetent," Wheeler had said.

Last month, Channel 9 uncovered emails sent by Wheeler in which he wrote, "We need the DOE to pack up its toys and leave Osceola County quietly and quickly."

Wheeler also wrote, "Better yet, need them to not find anything and just fade away."

"To me, that's interference. That's trying to block an investigation," Long said.

Long has filed ethics complaints against Wheeler before and said he may do it again if Wheeler refuses to step down.

Wheeler said Long may not want him but voters do since he's been elected three times.

Long said his message to parents and voters who put Wheeler in place is that they are the taxpayers.

"As a taxpayer, are you getting your money's worth?" asked Long.

The governor is the only person with the power to remove a school board member, but fellow members can vote to have Wheeler removed as chairman.