Category: Editorial

Brian Barefoot Is Asleep at the Wheel

March 3, 2023; Updated March 5, 2023

Startled by a pronouncement from the Executive mansion, Brian Barefoot has awakened from his nap on the dais. Recognizing that the legacy of his promised one term as a school board member is being directly challenged, Barefoot has decided to run for a second term. This unexpected announcement was filed by Ray McNulty of 32963 / Vero News which seems to be the only media he grants interviews. McNulty previously reported last summer, “When he ran for his District 5 School Board seat, Barefoot said he planned to serve only one term. It appears nothing has changed. ‘I sit on several boards, and I get some satisfaction from it because I see the benefits of the time I invest,’ Barefoot said. ‘On this board? I get zero satisfaction.’”

Forget the statement he made that this one-term was suppose to be his public service to right the ship of our school district by “supporting” Superintendent, Dr. David Moore. The soon to be octogenarian was awakened by a personal challenge. Yet, anybody watching the School Board can see he would rather not be there. From his multiple absences, to his signature napping on the dais, to even conducting his own business during an October workshop, nobody would ever think he was “woke.” Yes, he was called out by board member, Jackie Rosario, when it was noticed he was doing a lot of talking and busy work, muting his Microsoft Teams audio for about 20 minutes. See it here:

When it comes to actually being “politically woke,” Barefoot gets shaken from his slumber to go along with anything that doesn’t force him to make even the slightest of consequential decisions. On September 26, 2022, when he spoke against distributing donated pocket sized copies of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution to middle school students, he determined that the registered charitable non-profit, The 917 Society, was advancing a political agenda because they put their name on them. Out of 29 school districts in Florida, only Indian River refused the charity. (Related: IRC School District Drops the Ball on 2022 9/11 Anniversary and Constitution Day)

Not listening, Barefoot didn’t comprehend that a 501(c)3 cannot legally make such statements when the issue was front and center earlier in the year. In repeated displays at the public comment podium, Team Success president, Michael Marsh, did just that against Rosario’s candidacy. Barefoot also meddled in the elections campaigning against Rosario via email to his extensive list of donors on the island. In July, he falsely accused Rosario of wanting to fire Dr. Moore, telling 32963 / Vero News, “If I were him and the election goes the wrong way, I’d have my resume out there. To have to endure personal attacks from these people – just for doing your job well – I wouldn’t blame him one bit if he left.” His electioneering against a sitting member violated board protocols.

The DeSantis team built their list of school board seats based on those who did not listen, particularly during the summer of 2021, when the Governor issued Executive Order 21-175 titled, “Ensuring Parents Freedom to Choose – Mask In Schools.” The order was in accordance with the new Parental Rights law which declared that medical decisions for minor children were the sole right of their parents or legal guardians, and, the Florida Department of Health’s findings. Mandatory mask mandates were now prohibited in public schools. (Related: Barefoot and Jones Opposed by DeSantis and Team In 2024 Election)

As Chairman of the school board, Barefoot stood against the Governor elected by his own party. While many complain DeSantis has made school boards partisan with this list, in Barefoot’s case, it’s irrelevant. As the new chairman, Barefoot spearheaded a mask mandate effort. All through the spring of 2021, the Board business meetings were contentious. Parents protested twice a month regarding the mask mandate. Many counties were dropping their mandates as new data didn’t conclusively support masking, especially on children. At a meeting in April, a student father and 20 year pediatrician, Dr. Marc McCain testified, “Our approach to COVID has caused more disease than we have prevented. I have started more kids on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicine than I have in my 20 years combined.”

In May, the Board voted 3-2 to keep mandates ignoring medical professionals like McCain, mental health clinicians and the new Moms for Liberty chairwoman, Jennifer Pippin, who is a surgical RN. Following that vote, 32963 / Vero News doxxed a single father, John Corapi, over sitting in a chair at the alleged wrong time. It cost Corapi his job with the Chamber of Commerce. That evening, Corapi had given an impassioned plea to remove the mandate, citing Dr. McCain. It caused a thunderous applause from the lobby where people were required to stand for social distancing. The 2020-21 school year ended with a mandate.

Summer break was in full swing when the Parental Bill of Rights was established in Florida law. Freedom loving parents & citizens were reinvigorated. By the end of July, with less than a month before school, DeSantis issued his executive order. The School District’s mask mandate was illegal. However, at the August 24 business meeting, led by Chairman Barefoot, members, Peggy Jones and Mara Schiff, kept their commitment to the masking by voting for its approval. Earlier in the day at the Superintendent’s Workshop, both Schiff and Jones said they were “willing” to take the risk in breaking the law. Oddly, Barefoot never considered the law. He said, “I just don’t see any reason not to have mask mandates. In my discussions with Dr. Moore yesterday, ‘[I asked] is this a mandate for all students?’ It seems to me this is a very easy decision. Everybody should be mandated for masks, unless they opt-out for medical reasons, and not just an opt-out. It has to be very specific.”

Not listening to the Will of the People, the Governor, Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Health, he continually promoted the district’s masking position as “legal” and attacked parents who sought protection under the state’s position. After the August vote, the DOE sent a letter demanding compliance to the executive order and their subsequent rules.

Two weeks later, at the following workshop, Barefoot still maintained the district’s mandate was legal, and then he chided those who were for medical freedom and against the quarantining of students. At various times in 2021, over 3000 asymptomatic students were under quarantine. Some students, who were not sick, experienced up to 3 and 4 quarantines that were two weeks each in length. Students fell behind and some just lost a semester.

In response to the DOE, a vote on September 14 modified the District’s masking policy using a coded chart to represent threat levels. The highest level, Code Red, still required mandatory masking. The Board voted 4-1. The lone holdout was Jackie Rosario who DeSantis endorsed in 2022. At the morning workshop, Barefoot was discussing how to limit public comment because of the amount of parents contesting the unlawful position of the Board. Indian River County remained under mandatory mask requirements until September 29, 2021 because the DOE scheduled a hearing after the vote. To avoid the hearing, without the Board’s approval, Dr. Moore sent an email that changed policy to come into compliance. (RELATED: Republican Executive Committee of Indian River County Chairman informing Barefoot of Censure at September 14th, 2021 School Board Meeting)

Barefoot’s management of concerned citizens at meetings lacked empathy. At the core of the arguments by those for parental rights was their relationship with their children who were caught in the middle. It is obvious, he was advising Dr. Moore from his island retreat and not as an elected representative on the school board. In the latest 32963 / Vero News, Ray McNulty writes, “Barefoot said he has been having conversations with several leading Republican donors, discussing Moms’ influence on the governor, who continues to give the fledgling group credibility far beyond its political reach.”

McNulty doesn’t understand that in two years, Moms for Liberty has reached 47 states, recruiting over 120,000 members. “The fledging group” is approaching 300 chapters throughout the USA. It won 41 of the 67 races it backed in Florida last year while endorsing 500 candidates nationally. If there is one thing the tone deafness by elected school board members and our local media has done, it has caused parents to listen in greater numbers. At the February school board meeting, Jennifer Pippin addressed DeSantis’ list. She said, “It’s not a ‘hit list’ or ‘target list.’ I don’t like that the media is calling it that, and DeSantis didn’t call it that. We are holding our elected officials accountable….” She went on to say, “When we tell you that you are not following the law, or the governor’s orders, or health department orders, it doesn’t stop here. We are sending that information to our elected officials in Tallahassee — our representatives, our senators — like we are suppose to do as citizens. If it falls on deaf ears here, it doesn’t stop here. it goes up to further government.”

And because of the work of exceptional citizens, the Governor is listening.

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