Investigation of principal on hold for now
Pinellas County school officials have temporarily suspended an investigation of Maureen Thornton, the former principal at John Hopkins Middle School, while Thornton is on medical leave. On Dec. 4, the district took the unusual step of removing Thornton from her principal's position in the middle of the school year. A new principal was put in place the next day, a Friday. Thornton requested medical leave the following Monday and is under a doctor's care, the district said.
The district typically suspends investigations of employees who are on medical leave, said Valerie Brimm, an administrator in the Office of Professional Standards. One reason, she said, is so the district cannot be accused of worsening an employee's medical condition by adding stress. Another reason: It avoids situations where employees use a medical condition to recant statements to investigators.
Thornton has 31 days of sick leave. The investigation could resume when those days are used up in late January, Brimm said. The district does not disclose the substance of employee investigations until they are completed. Brimm said Thornton has not been interviewed yet, and her statement is the last piece of the investigation. She said more than 20 people have been interviewed so far.