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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Pasco Middle teacher fired for absenteeism

LAND O’ LAKES — A middle school teacher whose poor attendance record prompted Superintendent Kurt Browning to recommend she be fired has withdrawn her appeal to the Pasco County School Board.

As a result, the school board voted Tuesday to fire Lorrie Sabatelli-Harris, a social studies teacher at Pasco Middle School who worked for the district 11 years.

The board’s action ends a case that began nine months ago.

The school district said that Sabatelli-Harris’ excessive absences over a four-year period — including more than 20 missed days in the 2012-13 school year — undermined her ability to do her job.

In a letter May 6 to the teacher, Browning wrote that her attendance problems caused administrators, other teachers, parents and students to lose confidence in her ability to provide meaningful and quality education.

Sabatelli-Harris told The Pasco Tribune at the time that she is partially disabled from a back injury she suffered during training in the Army. She said she also had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and “a couple of other autoimmune diseases.”

She said the disability and her health issues are what led to her absences.

Also Tuesday, the board:

Suspended without pay Laura Santoro, a Mittye P. Locke Elementary School teacher who was arrested in Pinellas County last week on charges of driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. The suspension is in effect “until the matter is resolved.”

Approved additional language for the board’s contract with Pepin Academy, a charter school that will open in August. The board approved the 15-year contract Feb. 4 with the stipulation that attorneys add language to ensure the school makes an effort to seek financing to eventually build its own facility.

The need to get financing was one of the reasons the board gave Pepin a 15-year contract rather than the typical five-year contract for a new charter. Pepin’s attorney said it would be difficult to secure a loan without a long-term commitment.

The added language says the school must make “substantial progress” in getting a loan for school construction by June 30, 2017. Otherwise, the contract could be reduced to five years.

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