Carl Persis is a Volusia County School Board member with a target on his back. He’s one of 14 school board members around the state that have made DeSantis’ hit list. But, he doesn’t take it personally. In fact, when asked, he replies, “I don’t think Ron DeSantis knows any of us.”

When looking at Carl’s credentials and his standing in the community, it is difficult to understand why the Governor would target him. He has been a Volusia County educator for 35 years. For 27 of those years, he was a Principal. He’s served on the Ormond Beach City Council and has been the Mayor of Ormond Beach. He also served eight years on the Volusia County Commission and has been on the Volusia County School Board for seven more years. His wife, Susan, now sits on the Ormond Beach City Council, and his daughter, Karen, is a Past President of the Orange County Bar Association.

Along with book banning, he traces the origin of DeSantis’ hit list to Moms of Liberty, co-founder, Tina Descovich, who lost her own race for the Brevard County School Board, and a meeting that took place on February 21, 2023. Present at that meeting was the Governor, Moms of Liberty co-founder, Tiffany Justice, Department of Education Commissioner, Manny Diaz, and Christian Ziegler, Chair of the Florida Republican Party. This is the meeting where the Governor’s Hit List was unveiled.

Carl doesn’t think that this Hit List was randomly generated, either. He thinks it was calculated and strategic, and supports one of the Governor’s top priorities, making School Board races partisan in the State of Florida. Carl explains, “Only school boards in counties that lean Republican were targeted. He didn’t target Broward County or Orange County.” Carl and the other Volusia County School Board member targeted, Anita Burnette, are Democrats.

Efforts to make School Board races partisan have failed in the past, but Carl states that an initiative to change the State’s Constitution will be put on the ballot. “I’m hoping this effort to make School Board races partisan fails because what happens in the State legislature will happen in local School Boards. In the State legislature, well-meaning people were told by their legislative leaders, ‘This is how we need you to vote.’ They keep in line. I am not aware of any message from a State Representative to a School Board member. ‘This is how you should vote.’ They never did that.”

Even bearing the burden of being on DeSantis’ hit list, Carl Persis intends to run again for School Board in 2024. He considers the work he is doing important to preserve. He explains that the Volusia County School Board has undergone a tumultuous recent history, with COVID disruptions and an unusually high turnover of School Superintendents.

He has high regard for the present School Superintendent, Dr. Carmen Balgobin, and he is looking forward to working with her and the rest of the School Board to bring about stability to the Volusia County school system. “It is all about increasing student achievement, in all demographics, from lowest to highest. It is important that all children reach their full potential in all subjects. In order to do that, we all have to know what to expect and what are our resources. We have to line up professional training and the best instructional methods. All of these things matter, but what comes first are our teachers. We can’t keep changing, whether those changes come from the District or the State. Assessments keep changing. We must have sustainability. We have to have a unified message to all of our instructors. These are the measurables. These measurables are what is important to the Volusia County School Board and we are going to provide you with the resources to meet those challenges.”

To hear Carl Persis speak, attend the Speakers Series panel, “Dumbing Down Florida Education,” to be held on June 10th at 10 a.m. at Rinker Environmental Learning Center, 230 E Michigan Avenue, DeLand, Florida.

Sandra Haxton is a political writer and Activist, who strongly believes that all change begins on a local level. She is a member of NW Dems of Volusia County.