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Dunedin High School principal to resign

DUNEDIN — Dunedin High School principal Paul Summa is stepping down amid allegations that have raised questions about his leadership.

Among the complaints in an anonymous e-mail sent to school district officials is that Summa let a student who was drunk walk in the school's graduation ceremony.

Summa, 63, who took the helm at Dunedin High five years ago, informed his staff of his decision in an e-mail Tuesday night.

"I plan to retire by the end of July in light of recent allegations," he said.

Summa, who was investigated last year after being accused of letting a student who did not meet requirements graduate, said he did not want to put himself "or the staff through that type of investigation again," even though the findings were "inconclusive."

Summa, who has been with the district for more than 20 years, did not return calls for comment Thursday to his home, office and cell phone.

Pinellas County schools spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said the district has received correspondence about Summa and has informed the Office of Professional Standards, which investigates complaints, about those concerns.

Summa, whose annual salary is $95,604, has not formally submitted his request to retire, but he has indicated his intent to do so, Zahn said.

There have been no decisions about who will replace him, she said. The district will follow the normal process, which involves posting the position and interviewing candidates.

Bill McCoige, who served as Parent-Teacher-Student Association president at the school for three years, said Summa was involved and concerned about the welfare of the students.

"I knew Paul pretty well from the time my kid was at school. I loved the man dearly," said McCoige, whose son graduated a year ago. "He did a pretty good job."

As far as the allegations about the intoxicated student at graduation, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office confirmed that, on graduation day last month, the school staff asked a school resource officer to assess whether a student was or had been intoxicated. The officer believed that the boy was intoxicated or had been and was not feeling well, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.

He was released to the custody of his father, who was in the audience, and school staff made the decision to let him walk in the ceremony. The officer was informed that a good friend of the boy's had died in a motorcycle accident and that the boy had attended a wake the night before graduation and spent the night with a friend.

"We were advised that he was upset about the recent death of his friend," Pasha said.

The recent anonymous complaint, written by someone claiming to be a former "member" of Dunedin High School, also alleged that Summa was overriding National Honor Society qualifications to allow students who did not meet requirements to become members.

The investigation of Summa last year did not find fraud or falsification of documents, as was alleged.

The investigation, completed in September 2009, said that most staff members spoke highly of Summa's "passion for wanting to help students succeed in school."

But interviews of some teachers and other personnel "painted a picture of loose management practices at the school, a clear lack of communication, a lack of leadership, mistrust between co-workers and a perception that" he would override staff decisions if students or parents objected.

Summa joined the district in 1989 as a teacher of exceptional students. Before coming to Dunedin High, he served as principal at Pinellas Technical Education Centers.

Summa closed his e-mail to staff saying, "It has been a privilege and an honor to be the principal of Dunedin High School. I wish the school, staff and community all the best as you move forward through some very tough economic times."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Dunedin High School principal to resign 07/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 8, 2010 8:01pm]
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