Proposed settlement on table for ex-Pinellas principal
Former John Hopkins Middle School principal Maureen Thornton would be reimbursed for part of a suspension already served - and withdraw her request for an administrative hearing - under a proposed settlement (go to page 12 of the Sept. 15 agenda packet) that’s set for a school board vote Tuesday.
Under the proposal, Thornton's 45-day suspension would be officially shortened to 30 days, and she would be paid the difference. That would cost the district $5,306 in salary and benefits but save it potentially thousands of dollars in legal costs.
The proposal was signed by Thornton on Aug. 13 and Superintendent Julie Janssen on Aug. 30. It also says this: “Ms. Thornton acknowledges the allegations that she violated numerous school board policies and procedures relating to staffing, fundraising, and use of school board property and employees, but denies the allegations or (sic) that she purposefully abused her position as principal of John Hopkins Middle School.”
Thornton was removed from her job in December, and a subsequent investigation led district officials to conclude she had used her position for personal gain and had engaged in unauthorized use of school property. The school board voted for the 45-day suspension in April. Janssen did not renew Thornton’s contract.
"This is a prudent recommendation," school board attorney Jim Robinson told The Gradebook, noting that costs for an administrative hearing alone could approach $5,500. It saves money and staff time and "avoids the mild uncertainty associated with an administrative hearing," he said.
Thornton's attorney, John Trevena, declined comment.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter