LAND O’ LAKES — A former Pasco County school district administrator who was ousted after Superintendent Kurt Browning’s reorganization at district headquarters has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying her free speech rights were violated.
Lizette Alexander, 61, the district’s former student services director, said she was retaliated against after sharing with other district employees her concerns about her fluctuating job situation under the new superintendent.
Alexander said she had been on the reappointment list for 2013-14, but Assistant Superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson crossed her name off after learning about her discussions with the other employees.
“It has not been pleasant and it is a sad way to end a career,” Alexander said Wednesday.
Alexander had been a supporter of former Superintendent Heather Fiorentino, Browning’s chief opponent in last year’s election. Alexander suggested in a June 18 email to Larson that her support of Fiorentino also might have played a role in the way she was treated.
Alexander was not reappointed to any job in the district after her contract expired June 30.
District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the district is aware Alexander filed the EEOC complaint, but has not yet received a copy and so can’t respond to it.
Correspondence between Alexander and Larson and Browning in the weeks before and after Alexander’s employment ended indicates she felt she was being pressured to retire a year earlier than she planned.
“You began your comments to me this morning with, ‘It is time, it is time that you retire,’ words which you repeated half to a dozen times in a twenty minute conversation,” Alexander wrote in a June 18 email to Larson, her supervisor at the time.
“The repeated phrase of ‘It is time, it is time that you retire’ is nothing short of workplace bullying and harassment which is explicitly prohibited by school board policy.”
Alexander was among a number of administrators at district headquarters who saw their job titles and duties change after Browning took office in November. She said in the email that she was assured her salary would not be reduced, but later was told she could expect a pay cut after she was moved to the position of coordinator of educational choice.
Alexander tried to meet with Browning privately to discuss her situation, but was not allowed access to him, according to the communication.
Larson responded to Alexander in a June 24 email, saying that Alexander’s unwillingness to accept change was the real problem.
“You have been resistant to, and most recently, angry about the proposed changes, as is clear in your recent communications with me,” Larson wrote.
She added that Alexander was never promised she could keep her same salary level after the 2012-13 school year ended.
“I have never asked or forced you to retire,” Larson wrote. “I simply stated that might be the best option based on what you had stated to me and others.”
Browning would not meet with Alexander because her “unprofessional and hostile communications demonstrate that further discussions would be futile,” Larson wrote.
Alexander had been director of student services since November 2004. Before that, she served as supervisor of psychological services for the Hillsborough County school district.