With an Uncomfortable Exchange at Monday’s Meeting – Two Candidates Kick Off ‘22 School Board Race

It started over old American Flags.

Candidate for Okaloosa County School Board and current Okaloosa County substitute teacher Gerald Buckman spoke to the board at their meeting on Monday.

At the meeting – Candidate Buckman recounted two recent experiences at two different schools with two different tattered flags.

“I’m here to present an issue of grave concern to myself and all residents that love America,” he started.

Candidate Buckman recounted the fact that he had seen and discussed the tattered flags with Principals at the relevant schools – and that the flags were replaced the next day.

“That’s two tattered flags flying at two separate schools in just two weeks,” Buckman said, “that’s among our school district with a heavy presence of active, retired, reserve, guard, civilian and contractor warriors – all who demonstrate service and sacrifice for America. And to boot, we are treading through a very perilous time in American history when our schools are a battleground for the future of our country.”

The Response.

After candidate Buckman’s remarks to the board – it was Board Member Lamar White’s turn to talk.

“Mr. Buckman, I believe you are a candidate for school board, is that correct?” White said.

“That is correct sir,” Buckman said.

“Who are you running against?” White said with a smile.

“I think you know that,” Buckman retorted. Buckman is running against White for the district 1 school board seat. While a representative for the seat must reside in Shalimar, Ocean City or Parts of Fort Walton Beach, Everyone gets to vote as to who sits in the seat.

White then told the rest of the board that Buckman should have made a disclaimer he was running for office.

“There are some things that I think need to be said now,” White said, “I am a son and a son-in-law of veterans. One who was highly decorated for gallantry in combat. I have dear friends who were POWs supported me and support me now. And so the flag, Mr. Buckman, is something that you and I both will agree on. I lost an uncle in the Philippines during World War II, My Grandmother is a Gold Star Mom. And I know you know what that means. So when I was a principal, raising and lowering our flag was very important to me.”

After relating his bona fides on the situation – White made his point.

“Let’s get back to business,” White said, “Did you notify the superintendent of this matter?”

Buckman said he had not.

White continued, “Are you aware, Mr. Buckman, that employees of the school district report to the superintendent and not the school board?”

“As a substitute teacher, not necessarily,” Buckman said, “But I’d also like to say this, I’m not here tonight as Candidate Buckman, I’m here tonight as concerned citizen Gerry Buckman.”

Coup de Grace

Board Member White then addressed the superintendent. “Mr. Chambers, when did I notify your office of these matters, and that would include your deputy superintendent?”

“The exact date, not off the top of my head, but probably a couple of weeks ago.”

“And that was when I first found out about the flag. Mr. Buckman, you aspire to sit on this school board. So I ask, are you familiar with the Florida Laws governing Florida Schools, have you read them?”

“I don’t think this is the time for a campaign moment. Not at all. You can ask me that in another forum. Do you understand?” Buckman replied.

“I do, but I’m not quite finished,” White said, “This’ll be helpful to the members of the public and it may be helpful to other folks who might aspire to sit on this school board.” Dr. White then addressed the school board attorney, Jeff McInnis and asked him to summarize the laws of the State of Florida as they related to School Board Personnel.

“The division of responsibilities between the school board and the superintendent. The Primary area of that is in the management of personnel. The personnel of the district report through their chain of command to the superintendent. They do not report directly to the school board,” McInnis recounted.

Addressing the superintendent again, White asked what had been done to remedy the situation.

“First of all, I would like to say that I appreciate you and I appreciate your comments,” Superintendent Chambers said to Buckman, “we live in a community that is heavily military. And that is something that we are extremely proud of – whether that be Eglin, whether that be Hurlburt, Duke Field, 7th Special Forces and so forth. In this community, knowing the importance of the American flag is tremendous. I would like to say that we have even gone a step further this year, we now have flags that are posted on the walls of the schools as well. That’s how important it is to us. My father was in the military for over 33 years, so I grew up in a military family… I did speak to our deputy superintendent upon finding out about this. We do not want any flags flying that are not pristine. So we have reached out to every principal. We have made sure that if a flag was not in good shape, that that flag be replaced and going forward – not only do we have flags that are being flown the right way, but making sure that we have replacement flags that are ready to go if need be.”

For the Record

At the end of Chamber’s comments, Buckman requested a final riposte.

“I would like to state for the record that I object to Dr. White turning this into a campaign event. To me, this is a very personal matter and professional matter as well.”

You can watch the whole exchange below – it starts at about 18:45 in the video

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