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Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
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Anti-bullying activists call on Pasco board to fire principal

LAND O' LAKES - Parents and former school employees who want to oust the principal and assistant principal at Connerton Elementary made their case again this week to the Pasco County School Board. They accused Principal Anna Falcone and Assistant Principal Wendy Carswell of bullying tactics in their relationships with staff and parents. "I don't want one more teacher or one more employee to go through the kind of bullying and harassment I went through," Pam Jones, a retired teacher, told the school board Tuesday night. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino, who met with the Connerton staff on May 29 after receiving complaints about the school, said she is continuing to look into the situation.
On the same day Fiorentino visited the school, about 20 former employees, parents and students held a demonstration nearby, waving signs in opposition to the principal. Some of the parents said they had pulled their children out of the school. Two weeks ago, the group presented a petition with 114 signatures to the school board asking that the school be given new leadership. "It's a deep concern in this community," Peggy Lopez, a former employee at Sanders Memorial Elementary, said Tuesday. Sanders, an older school, was closed two years ago and Falcone, the students and much of the school staff were moved to Connerton, which had just been built. The principal's opponents say she doesn't listen to employees or parents, leading to low staff morale and a lack of community support. They also said complaints about students bullying other students were ignored and the school didn't always accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. The final straw for many of them, they said, was about a month ago when Falcone re-assigned two popular teachers to grade levels they had not traditionally taught. Jones told the school board Tuesday that one day Falcone called her into her office to complain about how Jones was handling behavior problems in her classroom. Falcone told Jones she had two weeks to improve, but less than a week later had pulled Jones aside again to complain about her classroom management, Jones said. Jones said Falcone began to visit her classroom, looking for things to "write up" about her. "It became obvious to me Ms. Falcone did not really want to help me, she just wanted me gone," Jones said. "I truly felt harassed. The things she said to me were disrespectful and outright mean." Assistant Superintendent Dave Scanga said the school district also is investigating one parent's complaint that her daughter, who participated in the protest against Falcone, was later pulled out of class and questioned about her involvement. But asked if the principal is a bully, as some of her opponents allege, Scanga said, "No."

rblair@tampatrib.com (813) 371-1853

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