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Clay County superintendent race gets uglier

Opponents of Clay County School Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. are blasting what they call unethical campaign tactics by the incumbent.

Addison Davis of Orange Park, a Republican and educator who works as Duval County Public Schools chief of schools, is one of several candidates challenging Van Zant as he campaigns for a second four-year term.

The Davis campaign accuses Van Zant of “using county resources for his own gain” by sending personal campaign messages through the district’s ParentLink notification and alert system.

Van Zant, who posted this video explaining that Clay County would not comply with the Obama White House’s directive on transgender students, also sent the audio from the clip through the district’s alert system, which is robo-called to the contact phone numbers listed for all of Clay County’s 35,000+ students.

The Clay County race has been lively in more ways than one.

The campaign also recently served up controversy in the form of a recent write-in candidate, a widely used campaign tactic that disenfranchises voters (and one North Florida voters are seeing with multiple races this cycle).

And then there’s the concerted push by teachers determined to oust Van Zant in the August 30th primary election.

But this week, the issue regarding the use of the ParentLink system also has school board members in Clay speaking out.

“It’s disappointing,” member Janice Kerekes tells Florida Politics. “I’m opposed to the superintendent using the system for partisan political agendas. It’s designed for schools to notify parents about school calendars, testing, severe weather, those types of notifications. It’s not intended for political or campaign activity.”




Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at

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