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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Ousted Pasco administrator claims pressure to back superintendent's reelection bid



Buffey Simon, recently relieved of her duties as Hudson Middle School assistant principal, has added fuel to the Pasco County School Board's investigation into whether superintendent Heather Fiorentino or her staff coerced or intimidated employees to back Fiorentino's reelection campaign.

Simon, who contributed to Fiorentino challenger Kurt Browning after her demotion, told the School Board late Tuesday that she felt pressure from principal Terry Holback and others — but not Fiorentino herself — to back the incumbent.

"I received a text message during the school day from a district employee encouraging my attendance and financial contribution at a campaign fund raising event for the current superintendent," Simon said. "In addition, I was pressured twice by my supervisor (about) my plans on attending this event and was told it was in my best interest to support your boss."

She specifically stated that Fiorentino never contacted or pressured her. Simon had not previously mentioned such concerns. She has filed a federal complaint against the district alleging workplace harassment that led to her removal, an allegation that district officials have denied. Simon is fighting to get another administrative job in the district.

School Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said after Simon's comments that now the administration has a specific complaint from an employee about the concerns that former principal Barbara Munz related earlier in July. Now it's up to Fiorentino to make the next move, said Hurley, who supported an external investigation into such concerns.

Meanwhile, Don Stephenson, who's seeking to replace Hurley on the board, issued a statement denouncing the board's decision to spend $175 per hour on that investigation.

"Given the ongoing nature of our dire fiscal problems, the approval of this expenditure seems all the more suspect," he wrote. "Even if the anonymous allegations against the Superintendent were true (which the current facts suggest otherwise), how can this investigation possibly be justified in light of the furlough days which have been foisted upon the backs of our teachers once again? At a time when our board’s #1 priority ought to be finding savings at each and every turn, we instead have a politically-motivated and wholly indefensible expenditure (which requires a budget amendment to facilitate) that will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars."

Did we mention that the election is just two weeks away? Stay tuned.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 7:19am]


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