Retired Pasco principal's words lead to investigation
Anonymous allegations of political shenanigans in the Pasco County superintendent's race had swirled for weeks. Retired Pasco Elementary principal Barbara Munz put a face and words to the accusations when she appeared before the School Board on Tuesday to air her concerns.
Her comments led the School Board to launch an investigation into whether superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her staff have been intimidating employees to help her campaign. Fiorentino, for the record, vehemently denies any such activity.
"Let them," she said of the pending investigation. "They will find out I have done nothing wrong."
Since Munz's words prompted the board, we decided to share them. Here's what she had to say:
"My name is Barbara Munz, and I had the privilege of working in Pasco County for 33 of my 38 years in education. 23 of those years were as the principal of Pasco Elementary. I retired just over a year ago.
"After working in the system for so many years, be it as a teacher, assistant principal or principal, I have formed relationships with a number of professional educators and dedicated administrators, at every level throughout these many years, who are passionate about this district and the children they serve.
"I also have to tell you that I find this somewhat awkward and uncomfortable and I had considered calling each of you individually, but felt it better to have you all hear the same story at the same time.
"Since the last board meeting, I have been contacted by many current employees who are extremely concerned, if not appalled, by some of the things taking place recently within the district office. But what concerns me the most is these individuals don't feel safe to express their concerns. So this is why I am here - to speak on their behalf.
"Concern #1: I have really been trying to wrap my head around the recent decision to reassign, transfer one of the most outstanding educators I have had the privilege of working with. Her involvement in the PS/RTI state mandate served as the impetus for schools to meet the expectations and continue to move forward with the ultimate goal being meeting student needs. In addition to being committed to helping Pasco County teachers and students excel, she is widely valued and respected not only throughout the state, but nationally. So why would a highly respected and effective individual ultimately resign? I've asked myself that many times. Politically motivated? In my opinion, yes.
"Concern #2: Administrators, both here in the district office and in the schools feel intimidated and threatened. Many feel that speaking out at meetings or suggesting new ideas is not well received, in fact discouraged. In addition, district and school based administrators have been contacted on several occasions regarding campaign events, including one contact during the workday via text. Others have expressed feeling pressured to walk to the point that they have had to rearrange schedules to accommodate the campaign to avoid being considered a non-team player or, even worse, insinuating or implying their names would go on a list. I am well aware that politics have been alive and well in this school district for a long time and I most certainly have participated in campaign events. However, it was because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to.
"Concern #3: You are no doubt aware that morale is at an all time low. I look back fondly and remember when Pasco County was viewed around the state as innovating and on the cutting edge, not a cut-throat district. This troubles me greatly. I am concerned about our young leaders who already have tough jobs and face enough challenges, without having to worry about what they did or didn't do to support the campaign efforts.
"I do understand that the board has limited ability to impact the day-to-day operations of the district office or the actions of the superintendent. However, I believe that this board cares about its employees and especially the future of our students. The focus of this district and every employee must be solely on student learning and not on politics. I hope you will make your dedicated and committed educators your priority by allowing them to do their jobs and focus on how they, in every way, can best serve students. Thank you."