A Florida state senator is giving up her $120,000-a-year position at a university reading research center that she was instrumental in helping to create, four days after Inside Higher Ed first publicized the arrangement.
An article on this site last week highlighted the appointment of Sen. Evelyn J. Lynn to help Florida State University get a new outreach center for its Florida Center for Reading Research off the ground on Lynn’s home turf of Daytona Beach. While Lynn was a longtime teacher and administrator in the schools of Florida’s Volusia County and has a doctorate in instructional leadership and administration, the arrangement drew scrutiny because, as head of the Senate’s education committee in 2006, she worked to ensure that language creating the center made its way into legislation.
And a year later, as head of the Senate higher education appropriations committee, she pushed for inclusion of $1 million in one-time funds to help Florida State establish the outreach center on the campus of Daytona Beach College. Soon thereafter, Florida State hired her, without a formal search, to help get the new center off the ground.
Consumer advocates criticized the hiring, saying it looked like Lynn was being personally rewarded for creating the center. She defended the arrangement because she was qualified for the position.
But Inside Higher Ed's article prompted others in several local newspapers.
On Monday, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on its education blog that Lynn had written Florida State's president, T.K. Wetherell, and provost, Lawrence G. Abele, informing them that she would fulfill the remainder of her contract as a volunteer. Lynn's letter, in its entirety, read:
"You are well aware of how important a role I believe the Florida Center for Reading Research plays in our state. I believe the recent publicity surrounding my role as Director of the Outreach Center, an extension of FCRR, is a distraction from its important mission. For this reason I am requesting that my current status, leave of absence without pay that I requested for the legislative session, be extended through the end of my contract. Though I do not wish to be paid, it is my intention to fulfull my Director responsibilities as a volunteer without pay. It is an honor to be working with the highly qualified educators at FCRR and to have the responsibility of extending their mission throughout Florida. They are truly committed to improving the reading ability of Florida's students." Lynn could not be reached for further comment.
In an e-mailed statement, Abele, the Florida State provost, said: "Senator Lynn has been doing an excellent job and it is an indication of her commitment to providing reading help to Florida's students that she is willing to continue the work without compensation."