Island Issues

The Nassau County School Board Needs A Spanking!

The Nassau County School Board Needs A Spanking!

The Nassau County School Board won’t tell local tax payers how it spends their money.

Nassau County School Board staff explaining their policies.

Nassau Citizens Defending Freedom (NCDF) Director Jack Knocke and one of his Board members, Rich Lamken, have been attempting for several months to discover how the massive County School Board budget is being spent. Their efforts have been repeatedly thwarted they say.

In May 2022, Lamken, NCDF’s Education advisor, asked the Nassau County School Board to establish a Citizens Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) to give citizens an opportunity to better understand, engage and provide input to the $250+ million annual budget of taxpayer money.

The school board was reluctant but finally agreed and recently selected a candidate to sit on the oversight slot. But they can only peek at 5 percent of the budget says the School Board.

NCDF was puzzled and questioned the Board’s decision. They say their questions to Assistant School Board Superintendent Mark Durham, are treated with either silence or rudeness.

Knocke says that Durham, in response to his queries about the system’s budget, angrily spat: “I don’t have to tell you anything.” And he didn’t. Since the school board doesn’t have an official spokesperson, Knocke was told Durham is the “go-to” person to respond to inquiries. His rudeness and unresponsiveness to inquires illustrates what appears to be the contempt he has for the tax payer and the parents of the kids that he and the Board are charged with educating.

The uncommunicative and curt administrator, who works for the local taxpayers who pay his salary, ignored his questions says Knocke, who heads the local private nonprofit organization. Durham refused to respond to Knocke’s inquiries to explain how resident’s tax money is being spent and was downright nasty in his refusal.

Nassau County School Board’s and administrative staff’s view of local taxpayers and parents.

When I called him he was equally unresponsive. He hasn’t bothered to return my many calls to him this week despite leaving several messages.

Almost half of the average Nassau County property owner’s local taxes go to fund the school system. Yet the folks that work there, whose salaries locals pay, won’t respond to inquiries about how they spend the residents’ money. Why not? What are they hiding?

Knocke says his group wants to know why the school board says the oversight council that his organization initially recommended, can ONLY look at 5% of the budget? It asks “why can’t the citizen council review the ENTIRE budget. Isn’t that their money and that of the other citizens it represents?” Knocke says CDF has been asking this for months without satisfaction.

In addition NCDF also wants to know:

  • Why did the Board select someone to sit on the salaries oversight committee with no educational experience and reject one with years of experience in schools and school districts in high level positions?
  • How were the appointees evaluated and selected?
  • What background details were provided to the board that influenced their decision?
  • If, as reported in the online Citizens Journal Florida that Lamken received high marks in an interview, why didn’t he make the cut?

Eight-year Nassau County resident Lamken, a retired assistant superintendent of schools in California appears to have a stellar background in education. His application for the budget oversight committee listed his eight years in K-12 education, mostly as an Assistant Superintendent of Schools for HR and Technology and some 30 years in the private sector in human resources. He also worked as a CFO, and 15 years as a VP, Administrative Services. As a young man he attended Catholic seminary and served as a priest for six years.

Nassau County School Board response team’s motto.

During his interview for the non-paying volunteer oversight committee Lamken pointed out that he was the only citizen to attend all three Board Budget Workshops and the Budget hearing; the only one to read the almost 400 pages and the only one to speak up and ask questions. Apparently the School Board doesn’t want well-informed tax payers asking questions.

Lamken claims “the interview went superbly” saying he was verbally “complimented several times.”

So why did the review committee choose Rachel Kerestes, a biologist, communications specialist, and public policy analyst, who has lived here less than two years and had no education experience checked on her application? Durham isn’t saying. In fact, Durham isn’t saying anything.

In addition, Ms. Kerestes application listed 11 jobs in a 24 year period with not one of them in the field of education That’s one job every two years, an interesting career trajectory. I’ve placed calls to Ms. Kerestes that have also been met with silence. Not a peep out of that gal.

It was pointed out in a recent Citizens Journal Florida article by its Editor George Miller ( that: “A brief deeper look at the chosen candidate’s social media shows a radical social view that may not be appropriate for our local school system.” The article went on to claim “She is a proud donor to the Stonewall Foundation of Greater Sacramento (Empowering LGBTQ+ Students for a more equitable tomorrow) and supporter of the radical democratic Resist movement. No experience and radical ideals.”

It appears the Nassau County School Board has some ‘splaining to do, but nobody there’s talking. “Shut up, give us your money, and don’t ask any questions” is their mantra.

School boards around the country are taking heat from local citizens so I’m surprised the Nassau County Board isn’t more open and responsive. Public schools are funded by the public and staffed by people whose salaries are paid by the public. The curriculum it teaches is approved by the public. So why aren’t they responding to the public?

If other tax payers want to ask where their money is going and how it’s being spent here are the contact numbers. Good luck. Let me know if you fare better than Jack Knocke and I did.

Nassau County School Board Members

Lissa Braddock   904-507-9522

Gail Cook           (904) 261-9127

Shannon Hogue   904-556-1568

Cynthia Grooms 904-845-8105

Curtis Gaus       904-887-9071

Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Kathy Knight-Burns 904-491-9902

Mark Durham, Assistant Superintendent of Schools 904-491-9905


Is Georgia On Your Mind? There are 10 cities in Georgia that travelers passing through that state might want to bypass for their own personal safety.

Using the FBI’s 2020 Crime in The United States Report, as a guide, OMD, a worldwide news gathering organization based in Austin, Texas, compiled a list of the most dangerous Georgia cities for 2023 with populations of 5,000 and more.

Its analysis concentrated on violent and property crimes per capita. It concluded that overall Georgia falls within the top third of the riskiest states in the U.S. when the entire state is considered.

It reported that the most violent city in Georgia is College Park, which sits just south of Atlanta and boasts the world’s busiest airport. According to OMD if you’re not entering or leaving Hartsfield International Airport there’s no good reason to visit College Park.

Not only is Hartsfield the world’s busiest airport so are College Park’s criminals. The city has Georgia’s highest murder and violent crime rates, as well as the state’s 16th-highest rate of rape cases. Property crime is also common; 213 College Park residents reported having their cars stolen in 2020 alone.

College Park’s police department also serves the surrounding areas of Clayton and Fulton County so that may explain some of its frightening numbers. College Park was where well-known performers Ludacris, 2 Chainz, and Jung Joc, whose songs don’t exactly portray a peaceful community, got their start. If your company wants you to relocate you to College Park, it’s time to find a new place to work.

Rounding out the top ten riskiest Georgia towns are:

  1. Americus is the second most dangerous city in the state says OMD. A city in Sumter County in southwest Georgia with 14,910 inhabitants, has the 13th highest rate of rape cases in the state. It also has the 22nd and 15th highest murder and burglary rates in the entire state.
  2. Garden City has a nice name, but it’s not a nice place to visit according to OMD. Located on the outskirts of Savannah, Garden City has the third-highest rate of violent crime in the state.
  3. Albany, (pronounced ALL-bany) residents had a 1 in 58 risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime in 2020, Georgia’s second-highest rate of violent crime. Additionally, Albany has Georgia’s second-highest burglary rate, with about two break-ins taking place per day.
  4. Waycross, just Northwest of Amelia Island, serves as a major transportation hub. It got its name because it served as a major railroad junction throughout the 19th OMD says Waycross has the fifth-highest crime rate in Georgia, and despite its accessibility, visitors might find those transportation routes useful for a quick getaway.
  5. Griffin, south of Atlanta, ranked 6th  due to high rates of larcenies and burglaries.
  6. Forest Park, Just south of Atlanta, has one of Georgia’s top ten highest murder and rape rates.
  7. Cordele, which calls itself the “Watermelon Capital of the World,” has an unusually high rate of larcenies and sexual assaults.
  8. Eastman, With significant rates of robbery and burglary, is Georgia’s ninth most dangerous city.
  9. LaGrange, 67 miles southwest of Atlanta, in northwestern Georgia, has a high percentage of property crime, particularly larcenies, making it Georgia’s tenth most dangerous city.

OMD didn’t explain why Atlanta didn’t make the list. Maybe it was too obvious and none of these small town thugs could hold a candle to the massive mayhem in that major metropolitan mess.

The group also listed the safest places in Georgia with Kingsland landing in second place. Just 22 miles north of Amelia Island, Kingsland, with a population of 18,556,  has impressively low crime rates, with a violent crime rate of just 0.2 and a property crime rate of 2.3, “making it a safe and appealing place to live” says OMD.

The safest place in Georgia to live is a community called Holly Springs, 36 miles north of Atlanta, which boasts a violent crime rate of 0.0 and a property crime rate of 2.7.


Do You Want Politics With That? According to an article by Anson Frericks, in the Wall Street Journal last week, a recent poll found that 58 percent of American consumers don’t want their beer, entertainment or investment accounts served with political and social issues.

Frericks, a co-founder of Strive Asset Management and a former Anheuser-Busch executive, says Bud Light, Disney and Blackrock are finding out the hard way by hemorrhaging customers and billions in revenues and market capitalization.

Company employees are also suffering layoffs because the morons sitting in those firm’s corner offices ignored the corporation’s mission to increase revenue and shareholder value by providing products and services the public wants, not truckloads of social BS.

And speaking of Bud Light, that sad sack company can’t get anything right. As deep as they are the hole you’d think they’d stop digging. However, last week at Walgreens here on Amelia Island a pal of mine spotted the beer company’s pathetic attempt to claw its way back into the good graces of America’s beer drinkers with a transparent attempt to appeal to patriotism.

The company is offering 12-packs of their swill for just 11 bucks, or less than a buck a beer. It wasn’t selling. Admit you make a mistake, apologize, and get back to brewing and selling beer you morons.


Caroline Adams - 24. Aug, 2023 -

Oh, my gosh! Where do I start? Maybe at the top with our tax money secreted away for who knows what? The most incredible idea of “no response” to your very bosses and providers for your jobs’ existences is not acceptable. The first thought is “what do you mean? What are you doing? What are you hiding?” Next is “what are you doing to our children and why?” Admittedly, our children are first, but the astoundingly inappropriate, rude, and profoundly unacceptable refusal to provide answers means one of 2 things: We are not acceptable to be given information; something is being hidden that should not be done or allowed. A third concern is that the wrong people are in control of our most important asset, our young ones’ minds. The next question is “How do we get rid of the situation and/or the people who are abusing the entire community? Start at the top!

The next concern to shake me up is Georgia IS on my mind. How does that happen to good people? Is the mess coming here? Prepare and protect yourself.

As for the Bud slop, would it harm plants? Maybe use it to water with.

What about The Moderate Majority? How naive or completely bonkers can one be to accuse “extreme right wingers” of promoting drag queens and their ilk in any capacity? Oh, YEAH, the people that think guns are programmed and capable of firing themselves. The kind of voter who thinks the oujtdoor toilet is a voting booth.

Ken fisher - 19. Aug, 2023 -

Well I hope all you out there that voted to increase the school mileage rate are happy to see your new estimated State taxes. The local school tax portion looks to be a 49% increase over last year’s rate. By the way, that was not listed in Nassau Board of Education’s budget for 23/24, as shown on the County internet site. It only shows this past year’s revenue and expenditures and coming year’s estimates. No breakdown by line item.

Jack Knocke - 19. Aug, 2023 -

Transparency to the public is important. At Nassau-Citizens Defending Freedom, we seek to shine a light on the facts so citizens can make up their own minds.

The Nassau County School district sold the millage referendum increase as raising $13.7 million dollars primarily for teacher salaries. In fact, the millage rate increase that was just voted for increased school revenues by $29,849,508 – a 44.5% increase in the millage rate.

Why does the school district need $29 million more year over year?

Why did they sell it to the community as $13.7 million?

Are state revenues to the school district going down? no, they are going up.

Can the school board still adjust the millage rate downward to deliver only the $13.7 million increase? Yes. They need to be asked by the people.

Check your tax bill this week.

Moderate Majority - 19. Aug, 2023 -

Obviously, this isn’t about sharing details of the Nassau County District School Budget since that is available to the public and I was able to find it online in less than 30 seconds – all 300+ pages. No, this is about a mob of self-appointed meddlers who reward themselves with a level of importance that is both unwarranted and unearned. The school board is tasked with duties governed by state and county laws – period. They are not bound to cave to the demands of some whack-job group calling themselves the Nassau Citizens Defending Freedom with a self-serving agenda. Florida state laws require a yearly audit of school board expenditures. If the NCDF thinks those audits are lacking, corrupt, or what have you, then take it up with the Florida Auditor General.

John Goshco - 19. Aug, 2023 -

The “budget” is not the question. It’s how the money was actually spent and to whom the funds went. Opening the actual accounting records to public scrutiny would be a lot more revealing of “proper” spending of the funds in each budget account.

A state audit would likely show that the credits and debits balanced and that there was no obvious gross fraud, embezzlement or mischaracterization of the budget account. If a million dollars was budgeted for “safety” and most was spent on guns for the teachers, I have a sneaking suspicion that some people might question the expenditure, even though it was properly budgeted and accounted for.

In addition, some organizations routinely operate on a “use it or lose it” basis. If they don’t spend all of their budget by the end of the year, they can’t justify an increased budget in future years. This encourages non-essential spending which would not be noticed in an audit. One person’s necessity is another person’s frivolity.

I have no reason to suspect that there is anything nefarious going on at the School Board. Still – a little more transparency would be welcome.

Nodie Sullivan - 19. Aug, 2023 -

The only thing Jack Knocke and his group “Nassau Citizens Defending Freedom” are interested in is pushing their self-righteous, right-wing agenda. Please don’t mistake that for civic integrity!

Janice Knocke - 19. Aug, 2023 -

Nodie, Since when is government transparency, in ANY area part of a ‘right-wing agenda’? You may not like CDF, but you should support the effort to open taxpayer funded spending to the taxpayers.

Jen Wanta - 20. Aug, 2023 -

Nodie, if protecting children ( please note the ncso speaking at the last cdf meeting in Callahan), protecting voter integrity, requesting full government transparency constitute a “ right wing agenda” think about making an investment in reading the constitution and gain an understanding of one’s inalienable rights

Moderate Majority - 21. Aug, 2023 -

Protecting children? Please. The number one cause of death among children is firearms. A recent FOX News poll revealed that 87% of voters said they support requiring criminal background checks for all gun buyers. 77% support requiring a 30-day waiting period for all gun purchases. 81% support raising the legal age to buy guns to 21 and 80% support requiring mental health checks for all gun purchasers. 80% of voters say police should be allowed to take guns away from people considered a danger to themselves or others. 61% of voters support banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. Those numbers can only be described as bi-partisan. So unless the NCDF is seeking to change gun laws to “protect children”, then focusing on drag queens and gay parades is nothing more than an extreme right-wing fueled diversion that flat-out ignores the physical, emotional, and mental harm caused by gun violence. Protecting children you say? Oh, the hypocrisy.

Fred - 25. Aug, 2023 -

Once again, MM (aka Coleman) shows his utter contempt and ignorance of the citizens of Nassau County. As if the only safety and mental health concerns we should be worried about are (most often) mentally unbalanced and liberal extremists with weapons. When did the conversation turn from school expenditures to the leading cause of death in children? Take your agenda to DC where it is already in full force.

Myra Mains - 18. Aug, 2023 -

chool Board is covered by Sunshine Laws. call Attorney

Myra Mains - 18. Aug, 2023 -

In regard to the School Board, it is a violation of the Sunshine Laws to not make the public aware of their budget.

Charlie - 18. Aug, 2023 -

Oh boy, can we really trust anyone who lived in California to be in charge of anything in Nassau County? We had one as the city’s mayor and look how well that turned out for us.

Island girrrl - 19. Aug, 2023 -

You can trust Lamken…he escaped California! He’s not like the x-mayor….

David Francis - 18. Aug, 2023 -

Dave. Can’t Jack and his group force School Board to cough up details via FoIA??Madame Superintendent needs pressure. They need to be accountable period.

Dean Abrassart - 18. Aug, 2023 -

Is this the same School Board that approved the purchase of property from PROGRESS NORTH FLORIDA LLC, parcel ID number: 42-2N-27-0000-0008-0000, on 2022-05-19 for $3,750,000.00. Funny how PROGRESS NORTH FLORIDA LLC, a local ownership group who have been here for generations, knew to buy the property almost exactly a year earlier (holding it for a year reduces capital gains tax – sneaky) on 2021-05-17 for $1,400,000.00. This 168% gain in one year is not heard of in this county UNLESS you know something!!!!!

Adhley - 19. Aug, 2023 -

THIS!!! There is something VERY VERY suspicious going on and they have the GAUL to come back and ask us for more tax dollars. The absolute ridiculousness! I would like to see their cost per pupil compared to our private schools in the area. Guaranteed the private schools are doing a better job for our children and less dollars per pupil!

Deborah Biggs - 18. Aug, 2023 -

Yes, Anheiser-Busch is full of morons! But please, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one! The best part of the “Budweiser Boondoggle” is that someone noticed they are promoting Folds of Honor!!

Anheiser-Busch’s current marketing to support Folds of Honor (FoH) is not “a transparent attempt to appeal to patriotism.” They are the Folds of Honor’s longest standing corporate partner—for 13 years now. They promote FoH several times each year with limited edition beer bottles and cans. Over the last 13 years, Anheuser-Busch has donated $21.7 million to FoH.

Founded in 2007 by Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, USAF, Folds of Honor is a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of military members who have fallen or been disabled while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Last year, it expanded its mission to include first responders.

Since its inception, Folds of Honor has awarded more than 44,000 scholarships totaling nearly $200 million in all 50 states.

In addition to Anheiser-Busch, other corporate partners include FOX & Friends, Winn-Dixie, Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Arby’s, Delta Airlines, TORO and Deloitte., to name just a few.

As an aside, our own Amelia Island Guides Association has donated proceeds from at least 2 of their fishing tournaments to FoH.

For more information or to make a donation, go to

George Miller - 18. Aug, 2023 -

We have had similar experiences at Citizens Journal Florida with the School Board and Mr. Durham. He was initially cooperative then simply ignored further calls/requests. We see that Burns now wants to establish some sort of publicity dept.

Kerestes, the new committee member, is a very disturbing and poor choice which should be quickly reversed. What is going on in the minds of Burns and School Board?

Ron Barone - 18. Aug, 2023 -

Make$ one wonder what it i$ the $chool Board i$ hiding?

Robert S. Warner, Jr. - 18. Aug, 2023 -

Not doing your homework for you, Knock, or Lampkin. (link deleted)

Robert S. Warner: I’m not posting a link that I have not previewed and may contain a virus or content that could be inappropriate. Instead of expecting people to read material that others have created why don’t you do what most folks here do: read it, analyze it and condense it in your own words using some original thought. Pasting material linking to other people’s material lacks originality, creativity, and introspection. Also Jack’s name is spelled “Knocke.” — Dave Scott