MILTON— The recent termination of a Santa Rosa County teacher has caused outrage in the community. 

On June 5, Mitch Lambeth, an agriculture teacher at Central School, was told by the principal, Sean Twitty, that he would not be returning to teach come August. 

Upon receiving this news, dozens of students and parents from the Central community spoke out. A Facebook event titled “Stand up for Mitch Lambeth” was created and over 100 people planned to attend the June 8 school board meeting to voice their concerns. 

"The students and parents are in shock and feel this is really going to be harmful to the students," Tracy Hoodless, a Central parent, said. "Mr. Lambeth was a real hands-on teacher who worked well getting that [agriculture] department up and running, and taught the students there were other ways to learn when book work doesn't fit for every child." 

Lambeth’s wife, DeAnna, said the couple were overwhelmed with a number of messages they were receiving, but they felt humbled to know he was so cared for by his students and the local Future Farmers of America community. 

However, Lambeth did not feel like confronting the school board was the right thing to do. 

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“I don’t understand all the reasoning behind what has transpired,” Lambeth said. “Many of us can guess, conspire, and inquire, but the truth is we really do not know. I’ll be the first one to admit that there are things that I don’t agree with in this country, and most of ya’ll know that.” 

Several parents said they believe the termination came from a recent school banquet where Lambeth prayed alongside students. The Consent Decree signed by the school district in 2009 prohibits teacher-led prayer in Santa Rosa County schools. 

When asked about the termination of Lambeth, Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick declined to comment on behalf of the school board and Principal Twitty, simply saying that the teacher was not extended a contract for next year. 

“God has not given me a peace, at this time, to pursue any further action toward Mr. Twitty, or Santa Rosa County School District,” Lambeth said. “With that being said, with a sad heart, I will not be returning to Central this fall. 

“... God is in control and there will be a time for voicing our concerns, but I feel that it is in the best interest of the Central [agriculture] department, students and myself if we hold off at this time.” 

Instead, Lambeth invited everyone to gather at his church this week so he could share his thoughts on the future of the agriculture program in Santa Rosa County. 

At the church gathering, Lambeth expressed the students’ need to welcome the new teacher and respect the change in leadership. 

“The strength in the program wasn’t me,” Lambeth said. “Each one of you has strengths; you can use those to build that school up.” 

Lambeth said that he is not angry at this time, and he needs to be outside of the school system to do what God has called him to do for the agriculture program. 

“Please don’t accept excuses,” Lambeth said. “People are attacking outside-of-the-box thinking in the school system... The FFA teaches you to take all the knowledge and experiences you have gained to grow you as a better person. 

“They are trying to take away your freedoms of what you can say and do…but God has changed my life; if God has done something to you, you stand in that school… We give away more freedoms than are taken from us.” 

A parent asked Lambeth why he didn’t want them to stand up for him, and he said that now was just not the time. 

“Real change happens when we think through the method we [need to] attack the change,” Lambeth said. “This is going to require some thought. I didn’t feel right about going up there [to the school board meeting], but they can’t hush us up. 

“There will be battles and fights in the future.” 

With tears in their eyes, members of Lambeth’s church, students, parents and friends gathered around him to pray for new opportunities and opened doors. 

“If you want to rock in school, you bring a little Jesus into it,” Lambeth said. 

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