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Embattled Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna is getting a boost from friends and supporters

 Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna recently woke up to find messages of support in his yard.
Christy Hanna
Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna recently woke up to find messages of support in his yard.

The Florida Department of Education says Hanna has used his position to politically influence others under his authority after a parent complained to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The state notified Hanna of its findings late last month. Just days later, the superintendent awoke to find several bright, bold signs pinned in his yard that said “We LOVE YOU,” “Shine Your Light,” and “You are awesome.”

More than a dozen people echoed that sentiment at the most recent meeting of the Leon School Board, including local resident Sarah Sprayberry.

You are valued. You are supported, and the people who elected you have your back. Thank you very much for having ours," she said.

Sprayberry brought a basket of 300 letters of support to Hanna during that meeting. The room was filled, and people were also in the overflow section. In all, the board received an additional 73 emails all voicing support for Leon’s embattled superintendent.

Hanna faces sanctions by the state, up to and including the loss of his teaching certificate. The investigation that triggered the sanctions was sparked after local Moms for Liberty member Brandi Andrews wrote a complaint letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighting Hanna’s defiance of the mask mandate ban, and a letter Hanna wrote to teachers at the start of the school year—shortly after the state passed restrictions on how aspects of race, sexuality and history are taught and discussed in schools.

At the height of that uncertainty, Hanna wrote to teachers “You do you,” and told them the district would defend them should they get into trouble with the state.

Recently, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on a new law that, among other things, gives Florida teachers a way to report to the Department of Education if they’ve been told to break the law by an administrator or district official.

DeSantis did not mention Hanna at all, but did say “there’s some times when maybe a school board, an administrator or superintendent, they don’t like something the state of Florida has done and they may not want their teachers to follow that. Well, that’s not the way this system works. If you want to change the policy, go get elected to the legislature like these folks did, and try to change it. But you don’t just get to veto it.”  

Back at the school board meeting, a tearful Hanna thanked his supporters.

“I love this community. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. You reminded me again tonight of why I made that decision," he said, while remaining steadfast in his point of view on the situation.

“I have never broken a law. I do not defy laws. I don’t encourage others to defy laws. I simply try to do what’s best for our teachers, our students and our public schools. And if it ends up costing me my teaching certificate, or, heaven forbid, even worse, then I am more than willing to accept that.”  

Toward the end, the board made room for one more public speaker. The late arrival was Tallahassee state Rep. Alison Tant.

“ I just wanted to be here for moral support because we’ve all come through a session that’s been difficult, especially on the education front," she told Hanna, "and I just want you to know you have someone pulling for you every day in the capital and that’s me.”   

Of the 11 superintendents that sued over DeSantis’ mask mandate ban, eight are gone. Of the three that remain, Hanna is the lone elected superintendent—which means only the Governor can remove him from office.
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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.
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