Mission Statement

The mission of the Department of Legal Services, Office of General Counsel, is to assist the School Board and District staff in serving the educational needs of students in a legally-compliant manner. The General Counsel, assisted by the Senior Associates and Associates, functions as counsel to the Board and to District administrative staff.

General Counsel's Message

The General Counsel's office is dedicated to providing high quality and timely legal services. Serving the School Board, Superintendent, and school and District administrators, our experienced attorneys assist their clients in complying with federal and state statutes, rules, and regulations as well as School Board Policies.

Thank you for visiting our site and we hope that you visit often.

JulieAnn Rico, Esq.

General Counsel

legal_education_btnAcademic Group

The Academic Affairs team provides legal support and advice to the District’s academic area on matters related to educational services, accommodations and modifications pursuant to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) the individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sec. 504) and Florida laws and State Board of Education Rules. The Unit provides representation of the School Board in ESE/sec. 504 Due Process Hearings,
convened under the jurisdiction of Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings. The unit also provides advice on a wide range of student disciplinary matters, including, interim alternative placements for students with disabilities pursuant to IDEA, criminal investigations, student expulsions, and suspensions. The unit provides advice and representation for the Board and District in compliance with the public and student records requests; and student matters falling within the jurisdiction of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
Laura Pincus, Esq.
Merrie McKenzie, Paralegal
Brigitte Wantz, Paralegal
Mary Quesada, Legal Secretary

graph&pen_btnLitigation, Employment, Labor & Risk Mgmt.

Risk Management – This legal team provides guidance to District Administrators regarding minimizing their exposure to liability risks arising out of District’s premises, motor vehicles, employee training and supervision as needed. Representing the School Board in personal injury lawsuits and other negligence related claims; assist in the review, creation and revision of District forms with regard to liability risks. Monitor notices of new claims that require reporting to the Board and/or heightened scrutiny of pre-suit investigations. This area also, monitors and provides oversight of outside counsel retained for personal injury and worker’s compensation litigation matters. Labor and Employment – provides daily advice to numerous school administrators, department heads, supervisors and the Office of Human Resources, Professional Standards and Labor Relations regarding matters involving individual employees or District concerns. Such practice provides a critical risk management service to internal clients by helping them identify potential liabilities, proactively manage problem situations, and successfully resolve employee conflicts as early as possible. The unit manages a wide range of labor and employment issues including, FLSA, FMLA, ADA, Title VII, constitutional claims, wage and hour requirements, whistleblower, etc. The unit represents the School Board in disciplinary appeals taken by employees before the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). In addition to handling litigation before DOAH, the unit represents the School Board in labor and employment related litigation in state and federal courts. General Litigation – represents and advises the District’s general liability self-insurance programs, this includes representing the School Board in lawsuits filed in state and federal courts.

Shawn Bernard, Esq.
Jean Marie Middleton, Esq.
J. Erik Bell, Esq.
Helene Baxter, Esq.

Joanne Laudicina, Paralegal
Vericcia McCreary, Paralegal

Ana, Jordan, Paralegal
Tish Pickens, Legal Secretary

compliance_btnGovernance, Compliance & Legislative

The Legislative, Governance and Compliance legal team provides support to the General Counsel in addressing the various governance and compliance issues related to the School Board, the Superintendent and the District. As such, the unit also provides legal advice on School Board policies; updates to the law through state and federal legislation, regulations and rules, new court decisions and new Attorney General Opinions; administrative procedures; public records and open meetings laws; conflicts of interest and ethical issues.

The group provides preventive, proactive legal services in compliance and governance; identifies and assists in managing ethical, compliance, administrative and legal risk issues; and the provision of analysis and legal opinions. Legal representation is provided to the District’s Charter School Department and on behalf of the School Board, on matters related to charter applications, charter contract compliance and related issues, and hearings associated with charter application denial appeals to the State Board of Education and Charter non-renewal and termination hearings before an administrative law judge and the School Board.

This unit provides legal representation for District work units or staff for internal administrative meetings including school choice appeals, student residency appeals, and policy waivers requested by a school and also assists with the management and legal advice pertaining to school boundary issues, student residency questions and public records and student records requests.

Bruce A. Harris, Esq.

A.Denise Sagerholm, Esq.

Lisa Carmona, Esq.

Sean Fahey, Esq.

Linda Flower, File Management Tech.


Business Operations & Real Estate

This legal team is responsible for real estate and lease transactions, goods and services contracts, construction and capital projects contracts, capital project financing, interlocal agreements with other local and state government units, and issues related to The Educational Network. Also, the unit provides on-going legal advice on finance related matters as impact fees, certificates of participation, tax and revenue anticipation notes (COPs, TANs and RANs); licensing and compliance issues related to ITV/EBS; the District’s banking, and bond investment advisory contracts.District advisory committees the unit provides legal support are the Audit, Finance and Construction Oversight Review, Technical Advisory, Budget Advisory and Independent Referendum Oversight Committees.

The Business Operations component reviews, analyzes, interprets, evaluates and prepares construction goods and services contracts for District schools and departments to ensure legal sufficiency and compliance with appropriate laws, regulations, and District policies; reviews and analyzes technology, purchasing and procurement issues, including bid protest and contract demands; provides legal guidance to internal business teams relating to procurement or contract activity; manages civil litigation.

Blair LittleJohn, Esq.

Holly Hawn, Esq.

Kimberly Hall, Esq.

Lesline Gregory, Paralegal

Dotty Fairbanks, Legal Secretary