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Alafia Elementary School gets new principal

VALRICO — The Hillsborough School Board has appointed a replacement for Alafia Elementary principal Ellyn Smith, who recently asked for a transfer after months of battling parental complaints.

Lisa Tierney-Jackson will assume the top job at the A-rated Valrico school when classes resume after winter break. She leaves the principal's post at Cypress Creek Elementary, which she has held since 2005.

Tierney-Jackson started her career as a teacher at Alafia, which will become her third principal assignment. She also served as Wimauma Elementary principal from 2001 to 2005. She was out sick Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

District officials said Tierney-Jackson will attend a parents meeting at Alafia tonight with superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

It begins at 7 p.m. in the school cafeteria.

The appointment of a new principal is welcome news to many Alafia parents who have criticized Smith for months. They blamed her leadership for high teacher turnover, low morale and concerns about student safety and behavior.

"We're just tired. We just want to move on," said parent Amy Dreyer, adding that while she doesn't know anything about the new principal, she is hopeful. "We just want to have our kids at a good school."

The district recently conducted an assessment of Alafia that identified a "very stressful work environment." It recommended steps to improve the atmosphere at the school.

But Smith ultimately decided to resign the post. Her husband, Ashley Smith, said many at the school still support his wife but that the situation had become an unfair distraction for students. District officials stressed that the transfer was her decision.

For now, Smith will help fill vacancies at the district offices, Elia said, including some created by a round of transfers set off by her departure.

The vacant principal post at Cypress Creek will be filled by Roy Moral, currently principal at Wimauma Elementary. Jeff Millman, a principal on special assignment to the textbook depository, will take over the post at Wimauma. Along with Lisa Tierney-Jackson, each transferred internally without a formal application process. They assume their new jobs Jan. 5.

Elia said she expects to announce a permanent position for Smith at the School Board meeting in January.

Alafia Elementary School gets new principal 12/16/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 11:32pm]
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