Pinellas custodian: "I basically got the shaft"
The head plant operator who has been written up by his bosses 28 times in 20 years - and whose disciplinary case goes before the Pinellas school board next week - tells the Gradebook he is the victim of a racially motivated principal and a "crooked" district.
"I basically got the shaft," Scott Long, who has been suspended from his position at Fairmount Park Elementary, said in an interview last night.
"I've had nothing but excellent evaluations throughout the district ... There might have been a couple flaws here and there, but nothing for disciplinary action. I've never been disciplined in the district," Long said. "All of a sudden she comes on board, and I got all 'needs improvements.' Basically she didn't like me. She wanted me out of there."
When asked why, Long said, "I think it's more a racial issue." Long is white. The principal, Sharon Wilson, is black. "You can interview a bunch of people at the school. They can't stand her. She's a frickin' headhunter. If she don't like you, you're gone. Now me and my family have to suffer."
Wilson could not be immediately reached for comment this morning.
According to a summary of his disciplinary history, Long has had 20 conference summaries, three directive memos, two cautions and three reprimands since 1991. Twelve of them came between 1991 and 1999, when he worked at two other schools. He did not have any between Jan. 18, 2005 and Feb. 4, 2009.
Superintendent Julie Janssen is recommending the board approve a settlement with Long in which he is demoted to plant operator and agrees to waive his right to an administrative hearing.
Long said he had no choice but to settle. He said he has already spent $11,000 on legal expenses and a hearing would cost another $10,000. "I couldn't come up with the money," he said. "They drug it on for seven months."
He said the average person doesn't know what really goes on in the district. "The big picture, as far as I'm concerned, (is) they're crooked," he said. "They got more money to fight me than anything. What they should have done is, if this was going to be blown up this big, there should have been progressive discipline going on."
UPDATE: Wilson, the school's principal, said she could not comment about employee issues and referred questions about Long to the Office of Professional Standards and district spokeswoman Andrea Zahn. But, she added, "I'm not racist" and "I believe I'm a fair employer."