Zephyrhills teachers write letters supporting principal on administrative leave
An investigation into the conduct of Zephyrhills High School principal Steve Van Gorden continued Tuesday, with no resolution or recommendation planned until later in the week, superintendent Heather Fiorentino said.
That did not stop several staff and faculty members at the school from beginning a letter writing campaign on Van Gorden’s behalf. In missives to the School Board and Fiorentino, teachers wrote about Van Gorden’s positive influence on the school and called for his quick return to the school.
He has been on paid leave since Oct. 19, pending the outcome of a review of unspecified accusations against him.
"Under his leadership we have all experienced his unique ability to bring the school and community together in a way like we have never seen," the guidance staff wrote in an e-mail. “The rapport he has established between our school, students, parents and community should be a model for our district. One of his best qualities is that he is not averse to positive change but embraces it.”
History teacher Judy Walker wrote that she travels an hour to and from Zephyrhills daily to work with Van Gorden. "He is also the only principal I know that truly has an open door policy," she wrote. "He listens, he cares, and he is always fair, even when the answer is not what was sought, he always takes time to explain his reasoning and ask for feedback."
Fiorentino said she will continue to look into the allegations against Van Gorden and make a recommendation in time for the Nov. 6 board meeting. Van Gorden did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.